The Tempest

Commentaries on Shakespeare’s Romance Plays

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Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. (Norton Romances and Poems, 2nd edition, pp. 365-425).

Shakespeare’s Romance Mode

In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy (U of Toronto Press, 1967, repr. 1985), Northrop Frye writes with precision about the defining characteristics of tragic vision; what underlies this vision, he posits, “… is being in time, the sense of the one-directional quality of life, where everything happens once and for all, where every act brings unavoidable and fateful consequences, and where all experience vanishes, not simply into the past, but into nothingness, annihilation.  In the tragic vision death is … the essential event that gives shape and form to life” (3).  By contrast, in Frye’s schema, the romance pattern is cyclical, not linear; death does not define life but rather the characters in the romance will have a chance to redeem themselves and the order within which they function.  The social order in Shakespeare’s romance plays and comedies borrows from the stability and perpetuity of the great seasonal cycles that literary cultures have envied and invoked for thousands of years.

Shakespearean romance (Pericles, Cymbeline, The Winter’s Tale, The Tempest, and The Two Noble Kinsmen) clearly differs from the straightforwardly tragic mode of action and perception, but it isn’t identical with comedy, either.  While both comedy and romance depend partly on the renovation of a corrupt social order, often by temporary removal into a green world of nature where magic rules and people can turn things around, romance is to be distinguished from tragedy and comedy is its Janus-like quality, its ambivalence about even the bittersweet endings it supplies.  In The Tempest, for instance, we enjoy a felicitous ending with the expectation of a marriage between Ferdinand and Miranda back in Naples and a return to power for Prospero as Duke of Milan.  The old wizard shows himself a benevolent ruler on his island and, we presume, he will be equally benevolent when he returns to his Italian duchy.  All of that sounds “comic” enough.  Still, it is easy to see that Prospero is potentially a tyrant and could plausibly misuse his powers: death, disorder, and tyranny are real threats in The Tempest, even though things turn out for the best.  To borrow from what I wrote towards the end of my notes for The Winter’s Tale, 

In Shakespeare’s romance plays,What we get is not second chances or “do-overs” in the simplest sense but rather second chances in altered circumstances; events and persons may come full circle, but there is loss and sorrow along the way, leaving even triumphant conclusions with a bittersweet taste.  None of this is to say, however, that the romance plays are anything but ultimately hopeful and mostly uplifting: they offer what may well be the most realistic orientation towards life with its recurrent opportunities and travails—not a proffer of ultimate insight and intense clarity near the point of being crushed by inexorable forces, as in tragedy; not a sunny representation of individual satisfaction and happy communities, as in the lighter of Shakespeare’s comedies; but a kind of wisdom that allows us to abide in uncertainty, accept the changes and loss that time brings, and be thankful for the rare and all but miraculous “second chances” we may receive, however partial the outcome.

Act 1, Scene 1 (374-76, A tempest drives King Alonso and his mariners to abandon ship)

The first thing we see is that authority is the matter in question—as the sea rages and his ship sinks, the Boatswain is not interested in paying homage to King Alonso of Naples at the bidding of counselor Gonzalo; he has more important things to do at the moment: to the imperious suggestion, “remember whom thou hast aboard” (375, 1.1.17), the Boatswain replies only, “if you can command these elements to silence and work / peace of the present, we will not hand a rope more.  Use your / authority” (375, 1.1.19-21).  The storm, therefore, functions as a great leveling influence, at least at this point in the play.  Still, Shakespeare is not about to ratify anarchy; this is a romance play, and the basis of the social order is about to be scrutinized.  The civil order has broken down and the characters have been compelled by Prospero to the island where things will be sorted out.

Act 1, Scene 2 (376-89, Miranda learns who she is, and who Prospero was: his story of secret studies, exile and miraculous survival; Prospero explains that his enemies are on the island now due to fortune and active pursuit of the opportunity it has given him; Prospero’s threats against and use for Ariel, Caliban, and Ferdinand; Ferdinand meets the “wonder” Miranda and both show patience with imperious Prospero)

In this scene, we see that there is need for a movement from ignorance to knowledge on the part of Miranda, Prospero’s fifteen-year-old daughter.  On this island since she was three years old, she does not know that her father was once Duke of Milan.  Miranda possesses sympathetic power of her own—she feels the suffering of those who have been shipwrecked, begging Prospero to keep them safe: “If by your art … you have / Put the wild waters in this roar, allay them” (376, 1.2.1-2).  But Prospero says that no harm has been done and that the shipwreck was arranged for her sake (376, 1.2.15-16).  The question is, how to come by one’s legitimate identity?  Miranda must learn about her former place in the social order and prepare for her future role, so Prospero begins to inform her by way of posing difficult questions, the first of which elicits some remembrance of childhood attendants in Milan and the second of which, “What seest thou else / In the dark backward and abyss of time?” (377, 1.2.49-50), draws no further recollections on Miranda’s part.  Prospero must provide Miranda some key information: namely, that a dozen years previously he was Duke of Milan, only to be exiled by his brother Antonio and Alonso, King of Naples.

As Prospero goes on to explain, he is not entirely without blame for his own exile—he devoted himself to the liberal arts, and, “rapt in secret studies,” neglected the needs of his dukedom (378, 1.2.77; see 75-78).  That is why he gave his brother Antonio control.  The upshot of it was, says Prospero, that Antonio learned the ropes of governing and began to consider himself the rightful ruler (378-79, 1.2.102-05).  Prospero’s brother is a Machiavellian of the bad sort, but even so he stands for political realism.  One of Shakespeare’s ideals is that a good ruler must be both magnanimous and active.  In consequence, poet-kings such as Richard II must be deposed as surely as evildoers like Richard III.  Prospero wanted to lead the life contemplative or vita contemplativa to the neglect of the active life, or vita activa.  The relative merit of the two was the subject of much debate during the Renaissance, and is well memorialized in Thomas More’s Utopia.  Renaissance education was intended to make a person fit for public life, for a life of active virtue—it was about developing one’s capacities to the fullest extent.  Prospero seems to have sought knowledge for a much more personal and private reason, one not closely allied with the charitable exercise of power.  Antonio at least understands that a ruler cannot simply keep the name of prince or king or duke and expect the authority to remain with it—that was one of King Lear’s mistakes, and it is also Prospero’s.  To keep the title, you must exercise the power and others must know you are exercising it.  To fail in that regard is to encourage disorder and wickedness.  Antonio apparently schemed with Alonso the King of Naples to get rid of Prospero, which was more than enough wickedness to result in Prospero’s loss of authority in Milan.

As for the status of Prospero as a magician, we are being set up for an important consideration: Prospero has been stripped of civil power by his exile, and he has put on a different kind of power signified by his magic robe.  What kind of power is it that he now possesses?  What is the source of that power?  We should not think that this power will ultimately be self-sufficient since a return to the civil order looms beyond the framework of the immediate dramatic situation.  Furthermore, Prospero understands that he is not an independent actor in his own chance at redemption—he admits that divine providence brought him ashore and that Gonzalo charitably furnished him with rich garments and the books he still values above his dukedom (380, 1.2.160-69).  Prospero will need to learn how to wield the knowledge in these books to get himself back to his former state and do some good for the people, just as he has used it to make life tolerable on the island.

Prospero also admits that an accident or fortune has brought his enemies within his power.  With this fortunate accident, he begins to operate on his own under an auspicious star (380-81, 1.2.178-85). As always, “there is a tide in the affairs of men,” as Brutus says in Julius Caesar (Norton Tragedies, ), and Prospero must act now or lose his chance forever.  He is satisfied that the spirit Ariel has done his bidding, appearing as St. Elmo’s Fire (a natural phenomenon) and striking the crew of the King’s ship with madness during the storm.  The aerial spirit has also dispersed the crew about the island, separating them into logical camps.  Ferdinand, the King’s son and the first man to jump ship, is alone, for he above all is to be tested as the future successor to Prospero’s kingdom (381, 1.2.196-225).

For the first time but not for the last, the spirit Ariel chafes to gain his freedom: “Let me remember thee what thou hast promised / Which is not yet performed me” (382, 1.2.244-45).  Prospero testily reminds Ariel that he had been imprisoned for his reluctance to serve the powerful witch Sycorax from Algiers, who died and left him trapped in a pine tree (382-83, 1.2.258-86).  Prospero has made a sort of contract with Ariel to free him from human control at the end of a certain time; that time is very near, says Prospero: there’s just a bit more work to do, and “after two days / I will discharge thee” (383, 1.2.  301-02).  Since Ariel seems to represent imagination or the finer and more sensitive of nature’s powers, we begin to see that the play is in part about how humanity is to maintain control over the natural forces within itself and beyond itself.  Prospero threatens Ariel in a way that suggests potential tyranny: if the spirit does not obey, Prospero lowers, he will “rend an oak, / And peg thee in his knotty entrails till / Thou hast howled away twelve winters” (383, 1.2.296-98).  In other words, he will turn into another Sycorax.  This is not a democratic island.  Ariel is much better (and much better off) than Caliban (Sycorax’s son and therefore the natural heir of this island kingdom), but both feel the power and occasional displeasure of Prospero.

When we first meet Caliban, he is at his hostile best, cursing Prospero but submitting to him because, after all, he must eat his dinner.  Caliban has sometimes been seen as a native set upon by white Europeans.  Shakespeare’s was a great age of exploration, and European countries were busily colonizing and exploiting the New World.  The quest motif—a kind of directed adventurism—is very strong in romance generally (consider Spenser’s The Faery Queen, with its heroic Red Crosse Knight in pursuit of his lady through various lands).  A sense of magic, wonder, and strangeness pervades the romance genre, and indeed exploration is itself matter for exploration, which explains why certain critics writing about The Tempest have seen Caliban’s circumstances in terms of colonial discourse and practice.  This isn’t necessarily to say that the play itself comes down in favor of Caliban’s perspective, but there’s little doubt that this romance play catches some of the enthusiasm in the air of Elizabethan / Jacobean England for exploration, and just as little doubt that Shakespeare’s representation of Caliban can plausibly be taken as at least in part a thoughtful consideration of how “natives” might process the approach of European cultures, with their imperious claims of superiority and their demands for subordination.

Caliban says firmly that the island belongs to him: “This island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother, / Which thou tak’st from me” (384, 1.2.334-35).  Prospero, however, apparently associates him with the devil, or perhaps with the unregenerate natural man, and heaps contempt upon him: “I have used thee, / Filth as thou art, with human care …” (384-85, 1.2.348-49).  All the same, Prospero admits that Caliban is useful as a servant to him and Miranda: “We cannot miss him.  He does make our fire …” (384, 1.2.314).  It is true that Caliban is controlled by his own appetites as much as by Prospero’s threats and magic, but he is not without ability—his complaints at times are eloquent.  In response to Miranda’s reminder, “I pitied thee, / Took pains to make thee speak” (385, 1.2.356-57), Caliban hits back with the unforgettable lines, “You taught me language, and my profit on’t / Is I know how to curse” (385, 1.2.366-67).  And he was good to Prospero in time of need.  His crime was to try to violate Miranda’s honor—another natural impulse he does not regret: “Would’t had been done!” he exclaims, imagining a race of Calibans got by an unwilling Miranda (385, 1.2.352).  Caliban is not appreciative of the gift of civilization Prospero has supposedly given him.  It’s reasonable to suggest that Prospero is somewhat unfair to Caliban—to say that Caliban is “capable of all ill,” as Miranda does (385, 1.2.356), is to say something of him that is true of humanity in general: everyone is susceptible to all sorts of impulses, be they good or bad.  Caliban is not simply “malice” (385, 1.2.370) as Prospero calls him in allegorical or morality-play fashion.  The things with which Prospero threatens him are entirely natural—pain and suffering—but Caliban is afraid of Prospero because he believes that the old man’s art can control even Sycorax’s male god, Setebos (385, 1.2.375-77).  (Robert Browning’s poem “Caliban upon Setebos” is a fine Victorian character study of Caliban, covering his resentments and religious sentiments as only an eccentric conversation-poet like Browning could do.)

Meanwhile, Ferdinand is enchanted by the music of Ariel and drawn on by it.  Ariel sings that Ferdinand’s father has suffered a sea change into “something rich and strange” (386, 1.2.405).  Of course the song is not true since Alonso has not drowned, but it memorializes the deep transformations wrought by death.  What is the point of bringing up such changes here?  Ferdinand himself says that while he wept for his lost father, the music became audible and calmed both the raging waters and his sorrow (386, 1.2.395-96).  In part, the music is designed to convince the young man that he is alone, that his father is in fact drowned, which of course would make Ferdinand the new king of Naples.  In part, the song seems to distance Ferdinand from his father’s death, perhaps because the trials and transformation he is to undergo on the island leaves him little time to grieve for a royal father lost.

Ferdinand’s central question to Miranda when he meets her is whether she is a virgin: “My prime request, / … is—O you wonder— / If you be maid or no?” (387, 1.2.429-31).  That is certainly a question with institutional significance: he wants to make her his queen.  But Prospero, while inwardly delighted, knows that the prize must not be won too easily and that Ferdinand has not yet earned the right to reenter the social order and partly succeed him in his daughter’s affections.  So he will test Ferdinand, even appearing to threaten him by accusing him of usurpation, something obviously of concern to Prospero since he has been the victim of that particular offense at the hands of a pair of Machiavellian political intriguers.  Aside from stealing the King of Naples’ title, insists Prospero, “Thou … / … hast put thyself / Upon this island as a spy, to win it / From me the lord on’t” (387, 1.2.457-60).

As for Miranda, she still needs to learn the difference between appearance and reality since she says that the handsome prince Ferdinand could not possibly mean anyone harm (388, 1.2.471-72), even though he has just drawn his sword against Prospero, however ineffectually in despite of the old man’s magic (388, 1.2.469).  She will need to understand this lesson to become a good Neapolitan queen when the time comes.  That she shows promise is obvious from her remark to the remarkably patient Ferdinand just before he is ordered to follow along after Prospero: “Be of comfort. / My father’s of a better nature, sir, / Than he appears by speech” (388, 1.2.499-501). 

Act 2, Scene 1 (389-96, Gonzalo entertains King Alonso, Antonio and Sebastian with his naïve utopia; Antonio suborns Sebastian to attempt usurpation of sleeping brother Alonso’s Neapolitan crown, but Ariel foils the attempt and the party go off in search of Ferdinand)

Neapolitan Gonzalo is an honest old counselor, a quality which shows in his trust in providence.  We must “weigh / Our sorrow with our comfort,” he tells his shipwrecked hearers (389, 2.1.8-9).  Gonzalo is also observant—he has at least noticed that their garments are strangely dry, in fact “as fresh / as when we put them on first in Afric …” (391, 2.1.68-69), and we, who know that the shipwreck is mainly Prospero’s doing, are thereby reminded that a certain wizardry is necessary to the founding and maintenance of the social order. 

Alonso despairs over the loss of his son Ferdinand: “what strange fish / Hath made his meal on thee?” (391, 2.1.112-13) but Francisco tells him that the boy may be alive, recounting his heroic attempt to survive.  Gonzalo’s utopian musings follow and seem meant to cheer the king and others.  What Gonzalo offers up is a silly pre-technological communist fantasy, a place wherein there would be no commerce, no magistrates, and above all, “No occupation, all men idle, all; / And women too—but innocent and pure; / No sovereignty—” (392, 2.1.154-56; see 147-56, 159-64).  Gonzalo would undo the punishments stemming from original sin: no work, no lowering authority figures to deal with.  Sebastian is right to point out the irony that Gonzalo “would be king” of his imaginary utopian isle nonetheless (392, 2.1.157).  His utopian vision is very fine, but it hardly equals Prospero’s magic and foresight.  Gonzalo is perhaps a little too ready to live within the confines of his natural surroundings rather than transforming them into something more civil, so it seems that this little group of stranded Milanese and Neapolitans doesn’t have all the answers.  In any event, Gonzalo is surrounded by people such as Sebastian and Antonio, who do not appreciate his wisdom, such as it is.  Wisdom is separated from rank for the moment, whereas both are required to keep firm order. 

With both Gonzalo and King Alonso fast asleep, the talk between Sebastian and Antonio turns serious and treasonous.  Antonio, who himself usurped Prospero’s dukedom, declares to Sebastian, brother of King Alonso, “My strong imagination sees a crown / Dropping upon thy head” (393, 2.1.204-05).  Sebastian doesn’t quite follow, so Antonio spells it all out for him: both men believe Ferdinand is drowned, and of course Claribel is queen of far-flung Tunis, so she’s in no position to inherit Naples.  These realizations lead to Antonio’s stage-Machiavel conclusion regarding the innocent sleepers they are supposed to be protecting, “Say this were death / That now hath seized them; why, they were no worse / Than now they are” (395, 2.1.256-58).  Antonio openly invites Sebastian to follow his example as usurper of Milan, and the gambit works: Sebastian declares, “As thou got’st Milan, / I’ll come by Naples” (396, 2.1.86-87).  So we have passed from Gonzalo’s false but harmless utopia to potentially lethal political intrigue. 

Antonio, who says to Sebastian of the recent events that saw their shipwreck, “what’s past is prologue” (395, 2.1.249), sees only the operation of random chance in the storm that cause the wreck.  He does not know that Prospero has used Ariel to generate the tempest.  As always, the category of nature is not to be taken simply in Shakespeare.  We are not dealing with an ordinary natural tempest; it is a thing of nature brought on by human and superhuman magic.  It is even associated with providence since Prospero himself, by his lights, was steered after his own shipwreck by divine providence.  Antonio mistakenly sees his friends and potential subjects as passive men just waiting to take orders, but his scheme is foiled by Ariel, who warns Gonzalo to “Shake off slumber, and beware” (396, 2.1.300).  With Gonzalo and King Alonso now awake, they all set off to look for Ferdinand (396, 2.1.318-19).

Act 2, Scene 2 (397-401, Caliban’s fear of Prospero’s spirit-ministers gives way to exuberant worship of Stefano as the prospective new lord of the island: a parodic usurpation to match the more serious plot of Antonio and Sebastian in the previous scene)

The scene opens with Caliban describing his reaction at the torments Prospero’s spirit-agents visit upon him because of his misbehavior: “For every trifle are they set upon me …” (397, 2.2.8).  When he meets up with Stefano and Trinculo, we will get a chance to see how Caliban perceives the island’s order, but for now we are left with his abject fear of punishment at Prospero’s hands: “I’ll fall flat. / Perchance he will not mind me” (397, 2.2.16-17). 

Trinculo and Stefano have their own ideas about paradise—they assume everyone else has perished in the storm, so this island is theirs, so far as they know.  Trinculo meets Caliban, even seeking protection under the clothing of this supposed natural man (397, 2.2.35-36) and later joins with Stefano to turn him into a willing subject on the basis of drink, which seems to be the god of this nascent kingdom.  At least, that’s Caliban’s view: “That’s a brave god, and bears celestial liquor. / I will kneel to him” (399, 2.2.109-10).  Liquor provides shelter for Stefano, just as an ordinary garment serves to clothe Trinculo.  On the whole, this section acts as a parody of the previous scene, which was about the misguided intrigue of Antonio and Sebastian against King Alonso of Naples.  Caliban sees the arrival of these two drunkards as a chance for freedom, as he construes his willingness to serve a new master: “‘Ban, ‘ban, Cacaliban / Has a new master.—Get a new man!” (401, 2.2.175-76)  Prospero, that is, can go get himself a new abjectly fearful servant: Caliban has found new lords more to his liking, and he’s positively overjoyed about it.  This so-called monster, whom Stefano sees as a potential exotic present for an emperor (398, 2.2.65-67), promises to uncover for his new masters “every fertile inch o’th’ island” along with “the best springs” and choicest berries (400, 2.2.140,152).

On the whole, the second act has been about a pair of false attempts to set up a new kingdom over the wreck of the old, with Antonio and Sebastian trying to seize the opportunity to make their own “providence,” and Stefano and Trinculo (along with Caliban) trying to set up their own crazy government.

Act 3, Scene 1 (401-03, Courtship of Ferdinand and Miranda advances; Prospero goes to his book to prepare for his triumph over enemies)

The third act transitions to the more legitimate attempts at self-discovery on the part of Ferdinand and Miranda; this focus will, in turn, gesture towards a regenerated dukedom in Milan, even though the play ends with everyone still on the island.  The developing affection between Ferdinand and Miranda is central in this scene.  Ferdinand performs his difficult labors mindful of Miranda and in hopes of better times.  For him, love makes labor redemptive—it is not something to be avoided so one can set up a fool’s paradise: “The mistress which I serve quickens what’s dead, / And makes my labours pleasures” (401, 3.1.6-7).  By his patience, Ferdinand shows the potential for nobility. 

The name “Miranda” means “she who is to be looked upon [with wonder].”  Prospero’s daughter is virtuous, and her virtue is part of the island’s special quality.  Like Adam in Paradise Lost, however, Ferdinand will need some warning not to be overly fond of Miranda’s charms.  The pair have some negotiating to do, and must move from the language of innocent courtship to a permanently enduring union—after all, they are the future of the state, and cannot remain in paradise forever, if indeed one wants to say that’s where they are at present.

Miranda thinks as highly of Ferdinand as he does of her: “I would not wish / Any companion in the world but you” (402, 3.1.54-55).  Prospero blesses the union to himself since he is apparently convinced that Ferdinand and Miranda will prove compatible, but he must not allow premature sexual relations between them to ruin the budding romance.  Language will prove essential to a proper match between the two lovers, and marriage is an institution, not a simple declaration.  Prospero must go back to his books and work up appropriate magic to complete his triumph over his enemies and his own anger towards them for their transgressions.  This will require delaying the courtship he beholds for a little while even as he blesses and furthers it: “I’ll to my book, / For yet ere supper-time must I perform / Much business appertaining” (403, 3.1.95-97).

Act 3, Scene 2 (403-06, Caliban encourages Stefano to murder Prospero as he sleeps; Stefano flatters himself with plans for governing his kingdom; Ariel frustrates the conspiracy)

Caliban, meanwhile, is courting Stefano as his lord and master, and chafing at Trinculo’s bad manners and disrespectful treatment of a faithful servant: “How does thy honour?  Let me lick thy shoe. / I’ll not serve him; he is not valiant” (404, 3.2.21-22).  Caliban is too easily won over to servitude.  To him, government is a protection racket.  We notice that he describes himself rather like Prospero, as someone exiled by a tyrant and cheated of his inheritance by evil powers: “I say by sorcery he got this isle …” (404, 3.2.50).  Caliban’s plan is to surprise Prospero and make away with him: “‘tis a custom with him / I’th’ afternoon to sleep. / There thou mayst brain him …” (405, 3.2.82-83).  Stefano, as usual, is spinning a storyline from his own base desires—once having seized Prospero’s books and murdered the man, he thinks, he will be free to marry Miranda: “Monster, I will kill this man. / His daughter and I will / be king and queen …” (405, 3.2.101-02). They all serve their own base material desires.  Ariel, however, is looking over them even as they devise their plot (406, 3.2.110), and the would-be ruler ends up following the “monster” Caliban (406, 3.2.145).  Well, Caliban does know his island, which is “full of noises, / Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not” (406, 3.2.130-31).

Act 3, Scene 3 (407-10, King Alonso’s despair over Ferdinand begins and ends the scene; Prospero nearing the pinnacle of his powers: spirits lay out a banquet for Antonio, Alonso, and Sebastian and Ariel, playing harpy, promptly snatches it away and admonishes these bewitched “men of sin”)

King Alonso is ready to give up the search for his lost son Ferdinand: “Even here I will put off my hope …” (407, 3.2.7).  Nature seems to have won the battle.  As the banquet is brought by Prospero’s spirits, Sebastian sees only “drollery” (407, 3.3.21), but Gonzalo sees the excellence and civility of this strange island: though the inhabitants are monstrous-seeming, he says, “yet note / Their manners are more gentle-kind than of / Our human generation …” (407, 3.3.31-33).  The wonder of exploration is part of romance, and Antonio testifies to his own sense of wonder: “Travellers ne’er did lie, / Though fools at home condemn ‘em” (407, 3.3.26-27).  The banquet itself, and the appearance of Ariel as a harpy, has a classical precedent in Virgil’s Aeneid, Book 3, where the harpies snatch away the Trojan remnant’s feast and Celaeno, the harpies’ chief, warns the beleaguered humans that they will suffer famine before they reach their destined home in Italy.

Ariel has set his victims a fool’s banquet, and as he makes it disappear, he explains sternly to these “three men of sin” (408, 3.3.53), some of whom attending are plotting against King Alonso, that they have been driven here to be punished for their sins in exiling Prospero (409, 3.3.69-75).  For this offense, they are threatened with “Ling’ring perdition” (409, 3.3.77), lest they feel “heart’s sorrow” and demonstrate “a clear life ensuing” (409, 3.3.81-82).   Failure would mean a futile repetition of the romance pattern, one stripped of meaning and redemptive quality.  At present, they still think Ferdinand is dead, and Prospero has no intention of telling them otherwise just now.  This is the first of two high points in Prospero’s wielding of power: as he says, “My high charms work, / And these mine enemies are all knit up / In their distractions.  They now are in my power” (409, 3.3.88-90).  Prospero goes off to see Ferdinand and Miranda.  This decision in itself has a powerful effect—Alonso, hearing the very waves, winds and thunder speak “The name of Prosper” (409, 3.3.99), feels bitter remorse at the loss of his son and wishes for death (409, 3.3.100-02).  Gonzalo sends help to keep the “desperate” three from further harm (410, 3.3.104; see 104-09).

Act 4, Scene 1 (410-17, Prospero urges restraint on Ferdinand, summons spirits to prepare a show for Ferdinand and Miranda: Juno and Ceres bless their coming union; Prospero sums up the vision — “we are such stuff …” and is overcome with thoughts of Caliban’s conspiracy: he is tempted to act tyrannically against them)

Prospero insists that Ferdinand should not behave like Caliban and spoil the honor of his daughter, lest “discord, shall bestrew / The union of your bed with weeds …” (410, 4.1.20-21).  There is much play here about the value of language—Prospero says Miranda will outstrip all praise (410, 4.1.10), and then says that Ferdinand has spoken fairly and will have his daughter (410, 4.1.13-14).  Ceremony is important for the obvious reason: it is necessary to bless this socially and politically significant union.  Marriage is part of the magic of civilization.  Prospero bids Ariel bring the lesser-spirit “rabble” (an important word here in terms of governance: the lower orders amongst the spirits, so to speak, will help bring order from chaos) so that he may give the young couple a demonstration of his powers: “I must / Bestow upon the eyes of this young couple / Some vanity of mine art.  It is my promise …” (411, 4.1.39-41).  Iris, the rainbow-goddess and Juno’s messenger, bids Ceres—the latter a fertility and agriculture goddess—to provide sport with the lovers and offer up her own special gift of abundance in perpetuity and, therefore, a secure future. 

At Juno’s behest, she and Ceres celebrate the marriage contract of Miranda and Ferdinand, and Ceres details the beneficence of nature that she brings” Earth’s increase, and foison plenty …” (413, 4.1.110; see 103-17).  Iris herself tells us that while Venus (goddess of love) and her son Cupid had thought to do some mischief to Ferdinand and Miranda by rendering their love somewhat unchaste, they have failed in that mission, and all is well (412, 4.1.94-95).

Breaking in to this celebration is Prospero’s remembrance that Caliban and his new friends are plotting against him.  But we still have unfinished business, so the celebration is a false ending in accordance with classical comic structure.  Consider lines 148 and following—Prospero sums up what his wizardry has accomplished: he has demonstrated that we are “such stuff as dreams are made on.”  This remark has sometimes been taken as Shakespeare’s farewell speech as a dramatist, even though The Tempest isn’t his last play.  In any case, there is clearly a parallel between art and life to be drawn here: art has much to tell us about life; it is a kind of magic that participates in and lends decorous approval to the necessary activities of civic life and to the fulfillment of individual desire: a key purpose of Prospero’s “show,” in fact, is to bless the future union of Miranda and Ferdinand.  The young prince is delighted with the demonstration, exclaiming, “Let me live her ever!” (413, 4.1.22)

At the conclusion of the show, Prospero remembers that he still needs to deal with Caliban’s wicked conspiracy against the good order of the island and that he must, therefore, get Ferdinand and Miranda out of the way for a while.  In concluding one of the most remarkable and aesthetically pleasing passages in Shakespeare’s work, Prospero says to Ferdinand and Miranda, “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on, and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep” (414, 4.1.156-58).  No sooner does he say this than Prospero professes himself an enfeebled, “vexed” old man (414, 4.1.158).  There are, to borrow from the Frost poem, still a number of “miles to go” before that sleep overtakes Prospero, and his magical island is not paradise after all: the consequences of human error, human fallenness if we want the theological overtones of that word, impend even here.  From here it’s on to taking care of business with that rascal Caliban and his arrogant new master Stefano and second-in-command Trinculo.  This means that Prospero is again somewhat tempted to turn tyrant—a possibility at least hinted at in his pronouncement, “I will plague them all, / Even to roaring” (415, 4.1.192-93). 

The scene ends with Stefano, Trinculo and Caliban being hunted down like animals by Prospero’s spirits, now morphed into vicious canines.  And here we are getting near the high point of Prospero’s demonstration of power, the apex of the ultimately benevolent plot he has stirred up by magic and with a little help from Lady Fortune: “At this hour,” observes Prospero, “Lies at my mercy all mine enemies” (416, 4.1.258-59).

Act 5, Scene 1 and Epilogue (417-25, Prospero forgoes vengeance: both sets of conspirators trapped, faults named, forgiven; King Alonso reunited with Ferdinand; Boatswain reports ship ready; Prospero will voyage to Naples for Miranda’s wedding, then go home to rule Milan and study the art of dying well; Ariel finally set free)

A main point is that in contrast with plays such as King Lear, in The Tempest insight doesn’t come at the cost of the capacity to act in the world.  Prospero ends by appropriately chiding the lesser group of conspirators, in particular Caliban and Stefano, but he isn’t overly harsh with them.  We are let in on the excellent thoughts whereby he makes his decision in favor of exercising genuine authority rather than playing the tyrant with his now hapless enemies: incensed as he is at their deplorable acts, Prospero recognizes inwardly that “… The rarer action is / In virtue than in vengeance” (417, 5.1.27-28).  Virtue, that is, will always prove productive of still greater good, while vengeance is merely destructive and decreative, tending to chaos instead of order.  The sinful men now in his power will again “be themselves” (417, 5.1.32) that they may receive their just reckoning and a chance at redemption.

Awaiting these sinners’ entrance into the enchanted circle he has drawn, Prospero recounts the wonders he has done on the island (417-18, 5.1.33-50) and pledges once and for all to let go of his magic staff and book and the “rough magic” it has made him capable of wielding (418, 5.1.50).  Casting a spell over the senses of his captive enemies with music, he proceeds to name to them their faults: “Most cruelly / Didst thou, Alonso, use me and my daughter. / Thy brother [Sebastian] was a furtherer in this act” (418, 5.1.71-73); as for Antonio, he stands accused most recently of egging Sebastian on to murder Alonso and thereby repeating by Neapolitan proxy his initial usurpation of Milan (418-19, 5.1.74-79).  But even he is forgiven.

Ariel can hardly contain his glee as he helps dress Prospero in his proper attire as Duke of Milan: “Merrily, merrily shall I live now / Under the blossom that hangs on the bough” (419, 5.1.95-96), sings this innocent, natural creature even as he invests a mortal man in robes of state.  King Alonso promptly agrees to forget his insistence on Milanese tribute for Naples (419-20, 5.1.120-21) and asks forgiveness for his complicity in the exiling of Prospero.  The wizard next demands his state back from his usurping brother Antonio: “I do forgive / Thy rankest fault, all of them, and require / My dukedom of thee …” (420, 5.1.133-35). 

King Alonso’s chief care is still, of course, for his lost son (and, by implication, the destruction of his dynastic hopes): “I wish / Myself were mudded in that oozy bed / Where my son lies” (420, 5.1.152-54).  For this despairing monarch, Prospero has one last wonder to reveal: Ferdinand and Miranda playing the ancient game of royal strategy, chess (421, 5.1.170-74).  Even Sebastian must admit that this is “A most high miracle” (421, 5.1.180).  The game itself seems to entail some contention between the two lovers, with Miranda accusing Ferdinand of making tricky moves on the chess board: “Sweet lord, you play me false” (421, 5.1.174).  This possible act of cheating would seem to transition Ferdinand out of the play’s dream world (in which he has played the romance quester in a short space) and initiate him into the guileful realm of politics and statecraft, thereby cutting the young fellow down to size somewhat, but King Alonso is nonetheless struck with amazement, exclaiming, “Though the seas threaten, they are merciful” (421, 5.1.181).  He and Ferdinand are reunited, and Miranda’s turn comes to marvel at the sight before her: “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!” (421, 5.1.186-87)  King Alonso is very pleased with the match, and Gonzalo pronounces by way of a question Prospero’s long-ago exile from Milan a dynastic fortunate fall: “Was Milan thrust from Milan, that his issue / Should become kings of Naples?” (422, 5.1.208-09)

Ariel has brought the Boatswain and ship’s Master into Prospero’s presence, and they tell of how they beheld with wonder the ship they thought they had lost forever: “Our royal, good, and gallant ship …” (423, 5.1.240) now stands ready for service as before.  King Alonso’s desire for the particulars of this miraculous affair are brushed aside for the moment by a happy Prospero, for there’s still the matter of Caliban and his wicked overlords to settle. 

Ariel is commanded to set them at liberty to face judgment, and Prospero’s initial move is to admit responsibility for Caliban: “This thing of darkness I / Acknowledge mine” (423, 5.1.278-79).  Afraid almost for his life, the miscreant admits his error and promises to mend his ways to obedience: “… I’ll be wise hereafter, / And seek for grace” (424, 5.1.298-99).  He now knows what King Alonso knows: Stefano is no god, only a “drunken butler” (423, 5.1.280).  Order at last fully restored, Prospero promises to tell his life’s story to King Alonso and his people on the eve of departure from the island.  The company will voyage first to Naples, where Prospero will witness the marriage of Miranda and Ferdinand, and finally Prospero will go home to Milan, where, he tells all assembled, “Every third thought shall be my grave” (424, 5.1.314).

Given the mostly kind temporality and fortune of the romance universe, this magician-ruler Prospero has been able to cast away his wondrous book and bury his miracle-making staff, respectively, without losing his chance to recover the dukedom he lost.  He has learned a costly, lengthy lesson about putting an intensely private and insatiable desire for knowledge in its proper place and showing due regard for his responsibility to maintain the symbolic and material authority that underwrites civil order.  Prospero’s concluding wishes are of interest in that aside from his final island-based act of freeing Ariel to the elements as promised, what the man really desires is not so much to exercise great power again as a younger man might, but instead to practice the art of dying well, or ars moriendi, as it’s called in Latin.

Ariel’s final charge is to provide “calm seas, auspicious gales” for the return voyage (424, 5.1.318), and his master’s last command to him is liberation itself: “Then to the elements / Be free, and fare thou well” (424, 5.1.321-22).  The promise of things to come is this impending marriage between Ferdinand and Miranda, who will, we may presume, carry on in a regenerated social and political environment.  These youngsters’ projected future is important, but the play’s emphasis, most viewers will probably agree, is more firmly on the elder statesman Prospero’s partial recovery of his former glory supplemented by a more mature kind of knowledge, one that more closely honors wisdom than mere intellection or erudition ever could.  Prospero, now an frailer but wiser man than he was when Antonio hustled him out of his dukedom, will decorously divide his time between governing Milan and preparing for his own “rounding off” with a sleep.  All in all, this is a perfect romance play, replete with a bittersweet but magnificent ending: a serious potential for tyranny and harsh judgment have given way to seasoned justice, political order, and the greatest measure of personal satisfaction that old age can afford.  In the epilogue Prospero, leaving his magic behind with the island, dutifully consigns his hopes of reaching Naples and Milan to the justice and imagination of the audience.

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen et al., eds. The Norton Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Four-Volume Genre Paperback Set. Norton, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93152-5.

Copyright © 2012 Alfred J. Drake

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Commentaries on Shakespeare’s Romance Plays

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Assigned: Shakespeare. Pericles, Prince of Tyre. (The Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems, third edition. 139-206).


In Fools of Time: Studies in Shakespearean Tragedy (U of Toronto Press, 1967, repr. 1985), Northrop Frye writes with precision about the defining characteristics of tragic vision; what underlies this vision, he posits, “… is being in time, the sense of the one-directional quality of life, where everything happens once and for all, where every act brings unavoidable and fateful consequences, and where all experience vanishes, not simply into the past, but into nothingness, annihilation.  In the tragic vision death is … the essential event that gives shape and form to life” (3).  By contrast, in Frye’s schema, the romance pattern is cyclical, not linear; death does not define life but rather the characters in the romance will have a chance to redeem themselves and the order within which they function.  The social order in Shakespeare’s romance plays and comedies borrows from the stability and perpetuity of the great seasonal cycles that literary cultures have envied and invoked for thousands of years.

Shakespearean romance (Pericles, Prince of Tyre; Cymbeline; The Winter’s Tale; The Tempest; The Two Noble Kinsmen) clearly differs from the straightforwardly tragic mode of action and perception, but it isn’t identical with comedy, either.  While both comedy and romance depend partly on the renovation of a corrupt social order, often by temporary removal into a green world of nature where magic rules and things can be turned around for the better, romance is to be distinguished from tragedy and comedy in its Janus-like quality, its ambivalence about even the bittersweet endings it supplies.  In The Tempest, for instance, we enjoy a felicitous ending with the expectation of a marriage between Ferdinand and Miranda back in Naples and a return to power for Prospero as Duke of Milan. The old wizard shows himself a benevolent ruler on his island and, we presume, he will be equally benevolent when he returns to his Italian duchy. All of that sounds “comic” enough. Still, it is easy to see that Prospero is potentially a tyrant and could plausibly misuse his powers: death, disorder, and tyranny are real threats in The Tempest, even though things turn out well. 

A key point is that in Shakespeare’s romance plays, we get not simple second chances or “do-overs” but rather second chances in altered circumstances. Events and persons may come full circle, but there is loss and sorrow along the way, leaving even triumphant conclusions with a bittersweet taste. Still, in the end, the romance plays are uplifting. Then, too—and in spite of their fantastical plot twists and settings—they offer what may well be the most realistic orientation towards life with its recurrent opportunities and travails: not a proffer of ultimate insight and intense clarity near the point of being crushed by inexorable forces, as in tragedy; not a sunny representation of individual satisfaction and happy communities, as in Shakespeare’s lighter comedies; but a kind of wisdom that allows us to abide in uncertainty, accept the changes and losses that time brings, and be thankful for the rare and all but miraculous second chances we may receive, however partial the outcome. When my father was growing up during the Great Depression, his father used to take him on weekly visits to an ice-cream parlor, and in those bleak times, the son’s choice was “plain, white, or vanilla.” My dad assured me that he enjoyed all three flavors, and it took him a good while to figure out that the choice wasn’t quite what it seemed. It’s a silly anecdote from a lifetime ago, perhaps, but the point is that the best romance characters have much the same capacity, much the same grace, to see wonder in things even when they fall short of cornucopia or perfection.

Pericles, Prince of Tyre, based in part on medieval poet John Gower’s Confessio Amantis (and Lawrence Twine’s prose version of that text, The Pattern of Painful Adventures)andco-written most likely with the not exactly reputable George Wilkins (author of The Painful Adventures of Pericles), is the earliest of Shakespeare’s attempts in the romance sub-genre. Despite its rough edges stylistically, it turned out to be very popular on the stage. Wilkins seems to have written the first two acts (the first nine scenes), and Shakespeare most or all of the final three acts. It is easy to tell when we arrive at Shakespeare’s handiwork: the opening of Scene 11 is magnificent in its dramatic staging and in the beauty of its language, neither of which Wilkins could ever have managed. One can hardly miss the Shakespearean energy of these lines spoken by Pericles during a storm at sea: “Thou god of this great vast, rebuke these surges, / Which wash both heaven and hell!” (3.1.1-2) This popular play seems to have begun performance around 1607-08, making it a later work in spite of its impossibly messy textual history. (King Lear was performed first in December of 1606, and Antony and Cleopatra around 1607.) It is, however, Shakespeare’s first play in the romance sub-genre, and its characters do not achieve the individuality or power, for the most part, as those in the more well-rounded romance efforts do. All the same, it’s a moving and dramatically effective play, and with its multiple shipwrecks and wonderful turnarounds of fortune, it certainly qualifies as a fine start for Shakespeare on his way to romance-play glory. We’ll spend a few meetings on Pericles, and then move on to The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest.


Act 1, Prologue (pp. 151-152, John Gower sets the stage: King Antiochus of Antioch lost his wife and is now in an incestuous relationship with his daughter. Introduction of the incest-theme is blunt, and Gower opens the scene to Pericles.)

The real John Gower (c. 1330-1408), whom Shakespeare and Wilkins have enlisted as their solo chorus speaker, was a medieval poet and contemporary of Geoffrey Chaucer, and the author of the Confessio Amantis, one of the sources for Pericles. For more on Gower’s function in the play, see my comments on the Epilogue.

Act 1, Scene 1 (pp. 152-156, Pericles discerns the king’s scandal but decides not to reveal its details in the court’s presence. Antiochus offers him forty days of entertainment, but plots to kill him forthwith. Pericles, wise to this, flees first. Thaliart is sent after him.)

The editors offer useful information about Shakespeare’s interweaving of sources. He borrowed from John Gower himself, but also from medieval Christian accounts involving women condemned to brothels. The editors also point out that Gower adds a certain medieval quality to the whole affair, thereby keeping us at some emotional distance from the unfolding story, at least for a while. In the end, the play turns out to be effective in terms of its emotional impact. In his book Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human, Harold Bloom writes that only the brothel characters come across as authentically human—Marina and Pericles himself, says Bloom, are narratival and moral abstractions. I would use the term “ethical universe” to describe the world in which they live. That is, of course, a feature of many medieval narratives and dramas; the play Everyman, for example, represents the protagonist as moving through just such a grayscape towards salvation.

It may be that Gower’s reference to the medicinal qualities of his tale, his description of it as a “restorative,” fits well with the thesis that from time to time or eventually, value systems need to be restored, renewed. So often in Shakespeare, a society seems to have become a hollow place for hollow men and women, emptied of anything like truly animating moral values and passions. Discourse, language, will play a vital role in the restoration of Pericles to Marina, and in his recovery of Thaisa.

The action opens with Prince Pericles having just arrived in Antioch to take his chances with the king’s guilty riddle, marriage to the king’s beautiful daughter being the prize. Antiochus offers what sounds like the ancient version of a legal disclaimer regarding the trial Pericles is about to undergo. The young man is quite the romance hero at this point, all fired up to put his life on the line for supreme beauty and eros. Antiochus’s arrogance shows already when he refers to his daughter as fit for “the embracements ev’n of Jove himself” (1.1.8). Is he comparing himself to Zeus, i.e. to Jove, who married his own sister Hera? In any case, the young lady is characterized as a wondrous, perfect work of nature.

The girl is also likened to the Hesperides (Ἑσπερίδες) who lived in a garden filled with golden apples. Again, her beauty is supreme, but dangerous and forbidden. Almost everything either Pericles or Antiochus says about her bespeaks this forbidden quality. The myth of the Hesperides is that they were tasked with guarding the golden apples in the gardens commemorating the marriage of Zeus and Hera. A dragon kept them from stealing the apples themselves, but one of the apples makes its way to the destructive scene of the Judgment of Paris. The goddess Strife made one of these apples the prize for judging which of three goddesses was the most beautiful: Hera, Athena, or Aphrodite. The outcome of that contest was, of course, the Trojan War.

In any case, the king’s daughter is, according to him, quite irresistible. I think we may take as projection both this assertion and the attribution of haughtiness or arrogance to Pericles and his fellow princes who have sought her favors. Pericles professes to take Antiochus’s warnings to heart, and declares himself “ready for the way of life or death” (1.1.55). Antiochus seems angry that yet another young challenger has insisted upon competing with him for his daughter’s love. He is at least in this regard a typical Freudian jealous father. The daughter declares that of all the men who have sought marriage to her, she wishes most of all that he should succeed. Perhaps it is cynical to say this, but it is difficult to avoid thinking that she says this to all the applicants. There is something ritualistic about the pronouncement. She must be quite used to this whole rigmarole by now. Should we suppose she is desperate to escape the clutches of her wicked father? It is impossible to say, but we were told by Gower that over time, habit or custom took over, and they did not feel the sting of conscience.

As for the riddle itself, part of it leads obviously to the life-preserving answer, and part is downright confusing or muddled: we can see how Antiochus makes his daughter his wife and himself her husband, but how does he become her son and she his mother? Perhaps the Freudian framework will be of service here: in rejecting his daughter as a daughter, we might say, Antiochus deranges the temporal scheme of his relationship, and opens the door to the family secret that the male child desires his mother first of all. In this sense, every woman he sleeps with is his mother, just as every man the daughter sleeps with is symbolically her father. The glaringly obvious part of the riddle remains unspoken to the king’s face.

In a sense, this is a power play on Antiochus’s part: like a typical bully, he tosses out damning information and double-dares anyone to make it plain in his angry, forbidding presence. When bullies tell obvious lies to their hearers, they are really saying, “I know I’m lying and I know you know that, and you know that I know you know it, etc.” There’s a mise-en-abîme here: “Help us help you help us help you, etc.” The ultimate in that line is the romantic leap into infinite self-consciousness: “I am reflecting on myself reflecting on myself reflecting on myself….” Since none of Pericles’s predecessor knights answered the riddle correctly, I’m going to assume that even if they did figure out the riddle, they blinked, just as Pericles himself now does. He knows the answer, but it’s taboo to blurt it out. Either way, he’s at grave risk of losing his life. That’s the Freudian interdiction at work: a dark, unsettling truth that may be distorted and screened, but never simply revealed in all its simplicity.

Since I like to go into what I see as the political-theory dimension of Shakespeare’s plays, as I see it, the king’s guilty sexual secret parallels a guilty political secret, one not unrelated to the Platonic dilemma of rulership: he has guilty knowledge of humankind and of the realities involved in keeping control of his realm. He’s daring subjects and foreigners alike to make this knowledge common, knowing that they won’t reveal the taboo from sheer terror. The riddle, then, has to do with the nature of political legitimacy and with the ability to govern, to use one’s authority. I would remind us of Aeschylus’ carefully articulated renaming and relegation of the Furies to the Eumenides (well-abiding, well-attending, or perhaps even “they who bide their time”). There is also the scandalous truth in Plato’s Republic that it is acceptable for rulers to lie to their subjects so long as the purpose is governance itself, the maintenance of order.

Pericles, upon solving the riddle, is immediately put off at the thought of romance with the king’s daughter. He sees her as a “glorious casket stored with ill” (120). Antiochus demands an answer, forbidding Pericles to touch his daughter at this point. Pericles addresses the king directly, and seems to say enough to anger him. Pericles shrinks back in fear from doing more than hinting he knows the true secret that the king hides. Essentially, he declares that he knows the truth, but will not make it manifest. It is bold enough that he should say, “And if Jove stray, who dares say Jove doth ill?” (147) but he will not speak the word “incest.” He will not reveal the scandal itself, but his boldness consists in a species of counter-bullying whereby he makes the king understand that he knows the secret. Pericles himself is a ruler, and is at least in that the equal of Antiochus.

Antiochus doesn’t quite know what to do with this bold foreigner, and offers him forty days of delay, time in which he might yet reveal the secret. But we know that he will not do that. The king decides to temporize and disassemble by means of decorous entertainment. Pericles sees through this false politeness, and decides to flee from Antioch. He characterizes what the daughter is doing as being like the action of a serpent, “an eater of her mother’s flesh” (173), with the daughter replacing the mother. How right Pericles is we see immediately when Antiochus, like the stage-villain he is, tells us he plans to kill Pericles as soon as possible, and summons his chamberlain Thaliart. This man is so obedient to the king that he even plans to use a pistol to do the job — an invention still far in the future. Evidently, George Wilkins, who seems to have written the first couple of acts of the play, shares Shakespeare’s penchant for anachronism. As Thomas Love Peacock writes in his satirical essay “The Four Ages of Poetry,” the Elizabethans “made no scruple of deposing a Roman Emperor by an Italian Count, and sending him off in the disguise of a French pilgrim to be shot with a blunderbuss by an English archer.”

Act 1, Scene 2 (pp. 156-158, Pericles is distressed over the threat to Tyre from his solving the riddle, showing political realism an compassion for his subjects. Pericles tells Helicanus what happened at Antioch, and receives earnest counsel: travel. The prince will sail for Tarsus, and Helicanus will rule in his stead.)

From lines 1-33, Pericles explains how his anxiety about the threat posed by Antiochus grew up on him until at last it now seems he must do something to relieve it. Pericles understands the logic and realities of power: princes who fail to pass “Machiavelli 101” seldom last long in Shakespeare’s works. Antiochus is quite capable of making good on his need to eliminate the one man who could reveal his guilty secret. The prince also reveals to us that his seeming near-paranoia about the punitive reach of Antiochus is really about the welfare of his subjects, not a dread selfishly felt for his own safety alone.

Pericles demands honesty from Helicanus, who disclaims all pretense of flattery. He tells Pericles that his “pining sorrow” (38) threatens both his own welfare and that of the kingdom. Pericles is impressed, and agrees with the sentiment expressed. This is an interesting contrast from the court of Antiochus, where Pericles offered himself counsel of a more Machiavellian nature, advice rendered entirely appropriate due to the quality of Antiochus’s court, which was unhealthy, even deranged. Pericles’s realm, by contrast, is ordered properly, with Pericles a true prince and Helicanus a loyal, capable subject who treats his prince with reverence and honesty.

Helicanus shifts his counsel from patience to travel. He will go to Tarsus, which we might observe with our editors is St. Paul’s city of birth. While the play is clearly pre-Christian, the place probably still indicates to Shakespeare’s audience that Pericles the traveler is about to undergo a deep spiritual transformation under the pressure of harsh experience. At this point, the reference works at a general level of significance.

Act 1, Scene 3 (pp. 158-159, Thaliart arrives at Tyre to kill Pericles, and reflects on his situation as a servant. Helicanus tells him Pericles has penitently gone traveling, thanks to Antiochus’s disapproval of him. Helicanus and the lords offer to entertain Thaliart before he supposedly returns home.)

This scene is very brief, but it introduces us to Thaliart, who seems like a capable rascal, even if this play offers him no hope of developing into an irrepressible Iago. Thaliart just seems like a standard Machiavellian operator: he keeps his eyes and ears open, and rolls with the punches. At Tyre, he at least gets enough information to spin a narrative for Antiochus that might keep an enterprising servant out of trouble. Helicanus easily discerns why this chamberlain has really traveled to Tyre, but he keeps up the appearance of civility.

Act 1, Scene 4 (pp. 159-162, Governor Cleon vents his grief to Dionyza over the plight of once-opulent Tarsus. He greets Pericles’ approach with fear, but his arrival with joy when the prince explains that he has come to relieve Tarsus’s hunger.)

It’s worth noting with a look forward that Pericles will, when met with such terrible misfortunes, falls silent, but here in the fourth scene, Cleon expresses to his wife Dionyza a strong faith in the therapeutic power of lamentation. Tarsus, it seems, was once a wealthy, prideful city that disdained the very thought of ever needing assistance. Its citizens, suggests Cleon, were more concerned with fashion and the competitive delights of what today we might call “conspicuous consumption” than with anything like mere utility and sufficiency. But those days are gone, and all he can do is hope the advancing fleet means the city no harm. Famine has made even him, Tarsus’ governor, altogether desperate: “bring they what they will and what they can, / What need we fear?” (4.75-76).

Pericles sets Cleon’s mind at ease, telling him that Tarsus’s suffering has been known for a while even as far as Tyre. This is no Greekish assault on Troy, says Pericles, but a mission of mercy: he has brought grain to fortify the starving people of Tarsus, and asks only for “love, / And harbourage” (4.99). Cleon offers both in effusively grateful terms, even calling down a curse on himself and his city if Pericles should ever find they’ve broken their bond.


Act 2, Prologue (pp. 162-163, Gower explains that Pericles, called home to Tyre by Helicanus, has suffered his first shipwreck, washing up on Pentapolis, where fishermen find him.

Gower promises a full-on morality tale, with Pericles sure to gain from the series of adversities he is about to undergo. On comes the shipwreck, and Pericles drifts until, says Gower, “Fortune, tired with doing bad, / Threw him ashore to give him glad” (2.0.57-58).

Indeed, this should remind us that Pericles’ misfortunes throughout the play are not brought on by error or flaw–they’re due to bad luck, or chance. The play is not suffused with the sensibility or ambience of classical tragedy: Pericles has done nothing wrong, has not made a mistake: what Aristotle calls hamartia (ἁμαρτία) is not in play in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. The protagonist has simply run up against the chaotic powers of elemental humanity (Antiochus) and the natural world (the rough ocean with its pulverizing storms).

Act 2, Scene 1 (pp. 163-166, Pericles washes ashore, and accepts his mortality. He meets some fishermen as they describe their country, and they soon tell him of the upcoming tournament for Thaisa’s hand. The fishermen have discovered Pericles’ rusty armor, and he gets them to give it to him for the joust.)

Shipwrecks are an obvious metaphor for the travails of life in all the time between the ultimate passage from birth to death. The sea and its storms are an alien realm that threatens to cast all that’s dear to humanity into the void. Until modern times, any kind of prolonged travel was apt to be treacherous and uncertain, with sea voyages probably inspiring the greatest fear of all. In Homer’s Odyssey, the narrator describes the coming on of night with the wonderful line, “the sun went down, and all the world’s paths turned dark.” Even on land, the dark reduces humanity to the level of raw nature. Here in an Elizabethan play, the ocean takes on something like that leveling power, along with a sense of profound uncertainty and violence. The sea is a roadway for the realization of desire, but it is also a place of peril, a “reset button” for past woes and felicities alike. It’s the great equalizer in the play: even princes are subject to its vicissitudes.

Pericles humbly wishes for little but a dry death after his ordeal at sea, saying to the elements, “I, as fits my nature, do obey you” (2.1.4). But soon, he’s in the company of some comic fishermen as they serve one another a helping of their views (in prose, not verse) on relations between the realm’s social classes, the sum total of it being that, like the fishes, “the great ones eat up the little ones” (2.1.27-28). Pericles reveals himself to these rustics, and reduces himself to a key of begging suitable to his plight. He is received kindly, and the fishermen inform him of the upcoming tournament whereby a skillful and fortunate knight at arms will win the hand of Thaisa, daughter of the virtuous King Simonides, whose “peaceable reign and good government” (2.1.100) are praised by the First Fisherman. When a rusty suit of armor is spied in the nets, Pericles hails its appearance since, he informs the fishermen, it was given to him by his father, and it is such a precious artifact to him that it all but banishes the shipwreck and other losses from his mind. The fishermen gladly turn the armor over to Pericles, and even agree to make him a garment to wear underneath the armor. They hope to be gainers along with him should he win, but their deed is generous in any case.

Act 2, Scene 2 (pp. 166-168, Pericles reaches the court of King Simonides of Pentapolis and his daughter Thaisa, the antidotes to Antiochus and his ruined daughter. The five knights present their mottos in chivalric sequence, and Pericles, lowly attired and professing only his dependence on Thaisa, wins the joust.)

In this scene, Simonides and his daughter Thaisa are introduced to us, while Pericles is introduced as the last of a series of knights seeking the hand of Thaisa. What we begin to see is an appropriate courtly spectacle, and what seems to be a healthy relationship between a father and his daughter. This is not a court dominated by secrecy and intrigue. Whatever dark Freudian jealousy may lie within King Simonides is kept firmly where it belongs: beneath the level of consciousness.

Each seeker marches forth on his horse to display his emblem in hopes of success. The king and his daughter will judge the contest partly on the basis of each man’s ingenuity. The first knight, a Spartan, presents as his Latin motto, “Your light is life to me.” The second knight is a Macedonian prince, and his motto translated from the Italian is “More by sweetness than by force.” The third knight comes from Antioch, and his device is “The summit of glory has led me on.” Then comes a knight from Athens, whose device is, “Who nourishes me extinguishes me.” The fifth knight hails from Corinth, and his motto is “Thus is faith to be regarded.”

Pericles is the final contestant, and his appearance is hardly promising, what with his rusty suit of armor and lack of assistants in proffering his device. All he has is “A withered branch that’s only green at top,” and his motto is “In this hope I live” (6.47-48). There is nothing inappropriate about the display and motto of the first five gentlemen, but Pericles is the only one among them whose situation really matches his motto and self-presentation. All he has going for him is hope — he certainly lacks resources at present; he is dependent for his future upon the outcome of the contest. With regard to the other five men, the mottos they present are rather standard and conventional: none of them is impoverished and desperate, but rather each is wealthy and privileged. The stakes are not the same for them as they are for Pericles. There is in Pericles’s case, that is, a perfect adequation between symbol and reality, between situation and display. King Simonides picks up on this fact, and gently rebukes the three fashionable lords with whom he is holding converse, saying, “Opinion’s but a fool, that makes us scan / The outward habit for the inward man” (6.59-60). They were looking for a precise match between the knight’s attire and his personal worth, but the king sees the more important “match” that lies beyond such facile observation. Pericles goes on to win the contest, thus ending the scene.

Act 2, Scene 3 (pp. 168-171, King Simonides and Thaisa host a banquet for the knights, above all for the champion Pericles. A courtly dance ensues, with “asides” carrying much of the dialogue.)

Simonides and Thaisa together constitute a guest-host antidote to Antiochus and his ruined daughter. Everything they do is gracious and appropriately decorous rather than garish or narcissistic. The knights are equally gracious in their appreciation of the seemingly lowly Pericles.

Pericles himself shows a great deal of humility in this scene, and a certain amount of melancholy as well. It’s as if he can’t help being a bit overshadowed by his previous experience with a kingly father and daughter team back in Antioch. In beholding Simonides, he is prompted to thoughts of his own departed father, whom he describes in terms almost reminiscent of Hamlet’s high praise of his father. What kind of protagonist succeeds in a romance play? It seems that the protagonist will need a combination of comic energy and openness to experience (a classical value accorded to epic heroes such as Odysseus) along with gravitas and fortitude equal to that of a tragic hero. At this point in the play, Pericles, who has already shown himself capable of considerable audacity as when he pursued the daughter of Antiochus, here shows a Christian-like degree of humility and patience. “I see that time’s the king of men; / He’s both their parent and he is their grave, / And gives them what he will, not what they crave” (7.44-46).

Both Simonides and Thaisa show themselves to be honest characters, but the conversation between them reveals a certain complexity in their decorous relationship. As the “asides” indicate, the main characters in this scene are capable of keeping their own counsel even as they engage in fit conversation with others. Simonides seems to be already trying to temper what he must suppose is the passion beginning to stir in Thaisa for Pericles, while Thaisa herself shows a maiden’s regard for her chaste reputation. When the king tells Thaisa to bring Pericles a bowl of wine, she responds hesitantly: “it befits not me / Unto a stranger knight to be so bold” (7.63-64). Yet to herself, she admits that she is very pleased with Pericles indeed. These asides are by no means dishonest; they are instead signs of a need to shape appropriate social and romantic outcomes, and to avoid some of the pitfalls of courtship. This is part of the work of society, of civilization itself: honesty does not always require “full disclosure” of one’s entire intent. Characters who show themselves to be too blunt with their words (think Cordelia and Kent in King Lear) often run into trouble, even though their moral character may be spotless and their intentions good.

Having been asked in classical fashion his birth and purpose here in Pentapolis, Pericles casts himself as quite the romantic adventurer, a man “looking for adventures in the world” (7.78), even though that doesn’t seem to fit his present circumstances well—it wasn’t pure wanderlust that drove him from Tyre to Tarsus and thence to Pentapolis. He was fleeing a political enemy, bringing aid to Tarsus, and then, as he admits to the king, barely surviving a disaster at sea. The king significantly offers gifts and personal friendship to Pericles, then orders up a dance for the still-armored knights. He teases Pericles and Thaisa into pairing off on the dance floor, thereby continuing the decorous pursuit of Thaisa that the now-completed joust began. At last the dancing is done and the hour is late, so it’s time for everyone to take their rest.

Act 2, Scene 4 (pp. 171-172, Helicanus reports to Aeschines that Antiochus and his daughter have been struck by lightning in their chariot. The lords of Pericles’ kingdom are concerned about his absence, and Helicanus puts off for a year their request that he accept the top position. The lords agree to seek out the absent prince.)

The scandal of Antiochus and his daughter is “illuminated” in a terrible way, at least for those in the know already, brought to light by a bolt of lightning that strikes their carriage one day, out of the blue. The foulness of the bodies, says Helicanus, so offended the common people that no one would give the two burial.

There are usually Machiavellian concerns in any Shakespeare play with a political dimension. The lords in Pericles’s realm are beginning to worry that the prince came to a bad end in his oceangoing travels—hardly an unreasonable supposition. The lords know that power hates a vacuum, and an absent prince is bad for them and the whole realm, conducive as it is to instability and the threat of foreign invasion. Helicanus is able to put them off for twelve months, but he understands that their patience is not infinite: it’s all he can do to prevent them from anointing him ruler, which of course he swore to Pericles he would never allow to happen. But in the end, the lords agree to go traveling and look for their absent leader. The voyage should keep their energies occupied for a time.

Act 2, Scene 5 (pp. 172-174, King Simonides tells the knights that Thaisa has declared she will remain a virgin for another year, so they depart. The king approves of her actual decision to wed Pericles: he dissembles his approval of the match, but just as quickly brings them together as partners.)

King Simonides briefly dissembles his intention to allow the match between his daughter Thaisa and Pericles, putting on a stormy show for them and even threatening the life of Pericles, but with comical celerity he ends up revealing his true intentions that they should soon be wed. We can connect this scene with Prospero’s gruffness in The Tempest towards young Prince Ferdinand of Naples when he takes an interest in the old duke’s daughter, Miranda. For that matter, there was the comic menace of Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream against his daughter, which Duke Theseus of Athens at first supported and then utterly disregarded. There’s probably some real paternal jealousy involved in the behavior of both Simonides and Prospero, but in truth, neither man is doing more than ensuring as best he can that his daughter doesn’t wind up hitched to an unworthy suitor. There seems to be some idea that, as Lysander says in Midsummer, true love should not run too smoothly. Some obstacle, even if it be a contrived one, seems necessary. In the course of this manufactured trial, Pericles shows considerable courage over and above his alarm, while Thaisa stands up admirably towards Simonides.


Act 3, Prologue. (pp. 174-175, Gower says Pericles’s bride is expecting; report comes to Pentapolis that Antiochus and his daughter are dead and that in Tyre, Helicanus is being pressured to accept the crown. Pericles sails for home with Thaisa, but at the halfway point, his ship runs into a storm.)

John Gower offers a dumb show and a bit of explanation. Thaisa is expecting a child, and Pericles receives from the king a message that Antiochus and his daughter are dead and that the lords back in Tyre are pressuring Helicanus to accept the crown. So the prince decides he must voyage back to Tyre and take care of business. Thaisa insists upon traveling with her husband, and brings along her nurse Lychorida. Pericles soon faces his second storm at sea.

Act 3, Scene 1 (pp. 176-177, Thaisa appears to die in childbirth during a storm when Pericles’ ship is halfway to Tyre. The prince wonders at the daughter born in such travail, and names her Marina in tribute. He grieves for Thaisa, but, at the superstitious sailors’ insistence, commits her body to the sea in a pitched coffin.)

The eleventh scene reveals Shakespeare’s authentic voice through the cry of storm-tossed Pericles: “The god of this great vast rebuke these surges / Which wash both heav’n and hell…” (11.1-2). This passage, along with Lychorida’s heartrending utterance, “Take in your arms this piece / Of your dead queen” (11.17-18) is unmistakably Shakespearean.

This whole scene is dramatically superb, and what’s more, it may lead us to broaden Coleridge’s claim that Shakespeare’s characters are most universal when they are most fully individuated. Pericles is not the most sharply drawn or particularized of Shakespeare’s protagonists, but at this point his grief and tenderness seem like the universal responses of anyone who has ever lost someone closest to heart. He even challenges the gods on a point of honor: they take back the good things they give, which is something even lowly humans usually scorn to do. The lines “Ev’n at the first thy loss is more than can / Thy partage quit with all thou canst find here” (11.35-36), an observation along the lines of King Lear’s complaint that he is “a man / More sinn’d against than sinning” (King Lear 3.2). Pericles is constrained to deliver up the seemingly dead Thaisa to the stormy sea in a pitch-caulked coffin to satisfy the sailors’ superstition, but his acquiescence is by no means a mark of weakness. He delivers striking elegiac remarks directly to his departed wife: “the belching whale / And humming water must o’erwhelm thy corpse, / Lying with simple shells” (11.61-63). After Scene 13, in which he speaks briefly to Cleon in handing over the infant Marina to that ruler’s care, we will not hear from Pericles again until Scene 21.

Act 3, Scene 2 (pp. 178-180, Pericles sails for Tarsus because his newborn child won’t make it to Tyre in such rough weather. Thaisa’s coffin washes ashore in Ephesus, where the physician Cerimon attends to it. He revives Thaisa.)

The early-morning conversation between Cerimon and a couple of visiting gentlemen tells us a good deal about the physician: “I held it ever; / Virtue and cunning were endowments greater / Than nobleness and riches” (12.23-25). Cerimon is a true scientist, adept in “the disturbances / That nature works (12.34-35) and in the properties of the natural substances that can remedy them, and he doesn’t much care for honor and suchlike baubles. This is in accord with the principles of the ancient Hippocratic Oath. While we are used to more or less dismissing the assumptions and practices of ancient medicine, the profession was more respected then than we might suppose. Ephesus, where Cerimon practices, was a Greek city along the Ionian coast in what is now Turkey, and among the Greeks, I’ve read, medicine had mainly broken free from domination by ritual and religion. (See, for example, Paul Carrick’s Medical Ethics in the Ancient World. Washington, D.C.: Georgetown UP, 2001.)

It isn’t entirely clear whether Thaisa is actually brought back from death or brought back from what we would call a hypothermic state of unconsciousness; one could argue the case either way, based on Cerimon’s language. How are we to take, for example, “They were too rash / That threw her in the sea” (12.77-78)? Or, “Death may usurp on nature many hours” (12.80)? Or again, “She hath not been entranced / Above five hours” (12.91-92)? The emphasis on how tightly caulked the coffin is with pitch lends itself to a naturalistic interpretation. In any case, Thaisa is alive by the end of Scene 12: she has either been brought back from death or she has had a “near-death experience,” as we would put it today.

Act 3, Scene 3 (pg. 181, Pericles reaches Tarsus and entrusts Cleon and Dionyza with the princely care and education of Marina. Pericles vows to the goddess Diana that he will not cut his hair until he knows Marina is married.)

Pericles gives Marina, named such, as he says, because of her birth at sea, to Governor of Tarsus Clean and his wife Dionyza, asking that she be brought up in a manner befitting her true station as a princess. Cleon eagerly approves, and Dionyza promises that Marina will be as dear to her as her own daughter. Nurse Lychorida will stay behind to help raise the child. The pair see Pericles off to the harbor, where he will begin his journey back to Tyre, which threatens to break out into political discord in his absence.

Act 3, Scene 4 (pg. 182, Cerimon asks Thaisa if she remembers anything from her ordeal, and she can recall only being about to deliver a child. She now desires to join the nearest vestal order since she believes she will never see Pericles again. Cerimon says he knows just the place.)

This is a very short scene, and in it Cerimon simply asks Thaisa what she remembers from her ordeal. She knows she was on board a ship and that she was about to deliver a child, but that is all. She recognizes her husband’s handwriting on the note left within the coffin along with some jewels. Thaisa doesn’t expect ever to see her husband again, so she immediately decides it will be best to sign on with the nearest vestal order. Conveniently, Cerimon has a niece at the Temple of Diana in Ephesus who can serve as her attendant.


Act 4, Prologue (pp. 182-183, Marina is now a young woman, thanks to our passage through time with Gower. He says that Dionyza, envious of Marina for stealing praise from her daughter Philoten, plots to kill her, with Leonine the instrument.)

John Gower again sets the scene for us, this time at Ephesus, where Dionyza is about to betray Pericles by plotting to kill his daughter Marina. The deed takes shape out of Dionyza’s “rare” (i.e. intense) envy for the gifts that allow the girl to outshine her daughter Philoten.

Act 4, Scene 1 (pp. 183-185, Marina grieves at Lychorida’s grave, and Dionyza urges her to take a seaside walk with the servant Leonine. Just as he is about to kill her at Dionyza’s prior bidding, pirates abduct her.)

Dionyza is envious, as Gower already told us in his prologue, because Marina wins all the praise that would otherwise go to daughter Philoten. Using the excuse that Marina is discomposed due to her grief over the death of Lychorida, Dionyza sets her servant Leonine the task of cutting the young woman down while they are walking along the shore. She pleads with him to no avail. But just then, pirates conveniently turn up and relieve Leonine of the need to kill Marina. Ironically saving her life, they abduct her. As for Leonine, he is as villainous as one can imagine, in spite of his seemingly soft manners: he lurks in the background, on the off chance that the pirates will “but please themselves” (15.149) by raping Marina rather than killing her, in which case he will still have to carry out his murderous commission.

Act 4, Scene 2 (pp. 186-189, The pirates who abducted Marina sell her to brothel-keepers Pander, Bawd, and Bolt in Mytilene on Lesbos. Much banter ensues between the brother-keepers, but Marina stands upon her virgin honor even as they prepare to talk up her chaste condition with prospective customers.)

The editors point out that this scene has a distinctly English feel, and critic Harold Bloom is probably right to suggest in Shakespeare and the Invention of the Human that Pander, Bawd, and Bolt are the liveliest and most carefully individuated characters in Pericles, Prince of Tyre. Indeed, they hardly come across as ancient denizens of Tarsus—they seem like a quintessential London pimp, madam, and scout. Shakespeare’s Mistress Quickly from the Henry IV plays comes to mind. In any case, Pander and Bawd discuss their trade frankly, lamenting that venereal disease is continually damaging and diminishing their stable of prostitutes and their customers alike. Ironically, their business entails hawking and vending “innocence” or chastity itself because that—and not simply “sexual license” is what sells. Young virgins appeal to the clientele, of course, in part because they’re unlikely to cast the user straight into the maw of syphilis or some other dread STI, but also because so many men apparently fantasize about recovering their own youth and maximum sexual potency by deflowering a young maiden.

In this regard, Bolt is quite important to Pander and Bawd’s success—he operates as a public relations professional, a Jacobean-style “madman” (after the phrase coined by Madison Avenue advertising agents to describe themselves) whose task it is to sell an image of beauty combined with flawless virtue. We can say “image” because, as we can see, Bolt has no intention of allowing Marina to begin her duties in the chaste condition he’s talking up. After receiving his advertising instructions from Bawd (16.50-54), he insinuates that he wants to break in Marina as the newest member of team prostitute: since Bolt, as he puts it, has “bargained for the joint,” Bawd offers first use to him: “Thou mayst cut a morsel off the spit” (16.115).

Bawd has her own job to do in convincing the impossibly virtuous Marina that the attractions of her new role in life merit the inconveniences: she tries to sell the young woman on an image of cosmopolitanism and sexual variety. Bawd promises her, “you shall live in pleasure” (16.67) and “You shall have the difference of all complexions” (16.70-71). That is, she will experience sex with men from all over the world. None of this claptrap impresses Marina, who peppers the scene with verbal indications that she is more than a match for her disreputable keepers, so Bawd and Company have their work cut out for them.

In truth, to judge from the early part of Pander and Bawd’s conversation, has begun to lose its appeal for them, or at least it has for Pander, who worries about the business’s disreputable standing with gods and men. Bawd pitches in that she has raised eleven illegitimate children born to customers, and Pander reminds her that she has recycled them into the trade as prostitutes. This is no “calling” (16.33), no proper religious mystery sect, nothing hale or holy, as was sometimes held to be the case with ancient temple prostitutes, for example. It’s just commerce, like almost everything else, only dirtier and (we can recognize, even if Pander, Bawd and Bolt may not) even dehumanizing. As Shakespeare and his audience (and co-author George Wilkins, who, as a disreputable inn-keeper on London’s Cow Cross Street, may  have actually been in the “flesh trade” himself) must have known, it wasn’t as if humane care and consideration awaited women trapped in this terrible cycle of abuse and then cast out when disease inevitably stripped them of their ability to contribute.

Act 4, Scene 3 (189-190, Cleon of Tarsus deplores what Dionyza has done to Marina. Dionyza defends her wicked deed. Reluctantly, Cleon goes along with Dionyza’s cover-up.)

Dionyza is a bit like a lesser Lady Macbeth, goading her husband into complicity with her depraved attempt to have Marina killed: as she says, “I do shame / To think of what a noble strain you are, / And of how coward a spirit” (4.3.22-24). Just as Antiochus’s lives were structured and cut short by a guilty secret, selfish, envious Dionyza and cowardly Cleon will have to live with the knowledge of what she has done. Cleon is what we might call an “accessory after the fact” in modern legal terms, but perhaps his biggest sin is how unheroic and ordinary, even petty, he seems when placed next to characters such as Pericles, Thaisa, Marina, Cerimon, and Simonides, or even the honest fishermen of Pentapolis.

Act 4, Scene 4 Prologue (pp. 190-191, Gower says Pericles has sailed to Tarsus to see what has become of Marina, whom he hasn’t seen since her infancy. Pericles is devastated at Marina’s supposed death; in Gower’s telling, he seems to abandon his faith in the gods and yield his course to fate.)

This scene consisting only of Gower’s narration shows Shakespeare acknowledging the need to do psychological and emotional justice to his characters. The main characters in Pericles have been described by some critics as overly universalized and insufficiently particularized, but consider a modern television series like Star Trek. So many traumatic things happen to most of the characters in the space of one or two episodes that if one-tenth of it happened to real-life individuals, they would doubtless slip into a permanent catatonic stupor. But the interstellar show must go on, so they don’t. By contrast, when Pericles thinks he’s lost Marina on top of his loss of Thaisa, he goes numb and becomes listless, vacant. The prince (rather like King Lear at his nadir) really does slip into a profound depression. That’s an element of psychological realism in Shakespeare: he isn’t afraid to dramatize a character’s emotional and spiritual breakdown. Pericles apparently becomes unreachable to everyone around him.

Act 4, Scene 5 (pg. 191, Two Gentlemen, amazed at their turn towards virtuous living after their encounters with Marina, head for church.)

Two Gentlemen, now former clients of Pander and Bawd, share their astonishment at the transformation wrought in them by the angelic Marina.

Act 4, Scene 6 (pp. 192-196, Pander and the Bawd try to win Marina to the role of a prostitute, and Bolt tries to ravish her, but she overcomes them with her virtue and conquers Lysimachus, the Governor of Mytilene, too.)

The three brothel-keepers are at their wits’ end as to how they can overcome Marina’s virtue and chastity. The Bawd says, “she would make a puritan of the devil if he should cheapen a kiss of her” (4.6.8-9). By this point, that scarcely seems an exaggeration. Things only get worse for them in this scene since Marina resists not only the brothel-keepers but the governor of Mytilene, Lysimachus. Well, she does more than simply resist — she transforms them and gets them working on her side. Marina has the poise of a biblical figure such as Daniel in the lions’ den, preserved from harm by his faith in God. What we are getting in the present play, then, seems like the comic version of Christian ordeal narratives. Marina easily fends off Bolt’s attempt to rape her, and her magic works wonderfully on the rakish Lysimachus, who gives her plenty of gold and promises that if she hears from him again, “it shall be for thy good” (4.6.105). At the end of the scene, Bolt himself dutifully scampers off to find Marina an honest position of just the sort she wants: one where she can make yourself useful by teaching her various arts. She tells him that she can “sing, weave, sew, and dance” (4.6.168), among other honorable talents.


Act 5 Prologue (pg. 196, While Marina makes money for her keepers by honest means, says Gower, Pericles’ black-trimmed ship has been driven by ocean winds to Mytilene’s harbor during a holiday dedicated to Neptune. Lysimachus goes to meet Pericles on the latter’s richly trimmed ship.)

We have heard nothing directly from Pericles for some time now, and Gower prepares us for our meeting with him again in the next scene simply by calling him “sad,” which, as we will soon find out, is quite an understatement. The restless ocean, the πόντος ἀτρύγετος or trackless sea of Homeric lore, has allowed one further twist in Pericles’ strange odyssey. On the ocean, Pericles has already suffered one outright shipwreck and one costly near-shipwreck, along with a few smooth conveyances. Now he is swept into Mytilene’s harbor at the mercy of the winds, a passive, worn-out traveler rather than a chivalric knight or lord of heroic cast.

Act 5, Scene 1 (pp. 196-203, Pericles miraculously recovers his lost Marina, who guides him towards recognition of the truth, in the process completing the realization of her own identity. Pericles has a dream vision of the goddess Diana, who instructs him on what to do next.)

This is perhaps the best time to remind ourselves that while the name Marina means “of the sea” (as Pericles said when he named her during an ocean storm), as a common noun it also means “harbor” a safe place at which to moor one’s ship. This second meaning is significant here in the play’s longest and most important scene. Marina serves as an inspired guide for Pericles, leading him back from storm and lassitude to a firm grounding in his true nature and identity. She is the “harbor” for his life’s voyage, as symbolized by many ocean crossings and travails throughout the play.

In the tragedies, the bedrock of human nature—the “the thing itself” in King Lear’s phrase, or at least as close as we can get to it—is someplace one doesn’t want to be for long, if at all. Getting there only leads to disaster, along with any insight (tenuous or deep) one may gain. In the present romance play, the Prince of Tyre has been exiled into himself, and it seems as if the experience leads to something very like madness, not of the howling kind but instead a period of silence and nearly complete loss of self. That is Pericles’s condition as his richly adorned ship enters Mytilene’s harbor.

At this point in the play, Shakespeare dramatizes a miraculous recovery that seems all the more powerful because of Gower’s and Helicanus’s narrations of the emotional devastation Pericles has suffered. This formulation differs from what we find in Shakespeare’s comedies, in which extreme loss is seldom more than gestured at, not delivered as it is in tragedy. In comic plays, the threat can even border on the cartoonish—think of Egeus in A Midsummer Night’s Dream, stormily threatening to have his daughter banished or even executed if she fails to heed his will in marriage matters. For the present romance play, Shakespeare crafts an exquisitely moving recognition scene that depends on, but does not overemphasize, our knowledge of Pericles’s genuine trauma and loss. Pericles was convinced that both his wife and daughter were dead, Thaisa for many years and Marina by very strong circumstantial evidence. Pericles has felt these supposed losses deeply and over considerable time, and now at least his loss of Marina is about to be made whole. How, then, does Shakespeare manage the revelation?

Lysimachus takes a barge to satisfy his curiosity as to who the traveler at harbor in Mytilene may be. Helicanus informs the governor that Pericles “for this three months hath not spoken / To anyone, nor taken sustenance / But to prorogue his grief” (5.1.20-22). Lysimachus has no luck in getting the silent sufferer to speak, but a lord reminds him that there’s “a maid in Mytilene” (5.1.35) who just might be able to wring some words from Pericles.

Just when Lysimachus is about to hear Helicanus’s tale about the prince’s sorrows, the lord re-enters with Marina and her maids. The governor praises Marina, admitting that if only she were nobly born, she should be his choice for a wife. The young woman’s one condition for her attempt is that only she and her maids should be in the room with the sufferer. Song and instrumental music have no effect on Pericles, and he rudely “pushes her back,” according to the stage directions just after Marina says, “Hail, sir! My lord, lend ear!” (5.1.74). Neither music nor the promise of discourse, then, does more than provoke Pericles’s anger. But something in the discourse finally offered catches the prince’s attention, and he blurts out, “My fortunes, parentage—good parentage, / To equal mine…” (5.1.88-89). Marina has dared to place her own sufferings and possibly even her lineage of a par with those of the princely stranger.

Pericles comes nearer to his vital recognition soon thereafter, when Marina (whose name he still does not know), responding to a question about her nationality, offers the strange response that she is not “of any shores” (5.1.94). But so far, all he can prove to himself is a likeness to the lost Thaisa in stature, countenance, voice, and stride—might not his daughter, had she survived, been just like this maid in all ways? In any event, he tells her, “thou lookest / Like one I loved indeed” (5.1.115-16). Much has been made of this passage as supposedly implying or reinvoking the possibility of incest between the stricken father and his daughter, but the point seems rather that no such thing is in the offing: this father and this child are really nothing like the selfish King Antiochus and his much-abused daughter. The selfish and destructive relation between the former pair will not be replicated here, but instead replaced by a relationship grounded in genuine, respectful and chaste love: what in biblical times would be called charitas or charity, not cupiditas or covetousness.

Now Pericles is truly on fire to know this young maid’s parentage, even if she fears she’ll be branded a wild liar for her efforts. He learns at 5.1.133 that her name is Marina, and a little below that she is the daughter of a king, and so was her mother. Pericles’s responses to all this seems uncomfortably close to the skepticism that Marina fears will be her reward for telling her tale, but Pericles—daring to believe only that he must be experiencing “the rarest dream” (5.1.151)—convinces her to continue with astonishing relation, and it all comes to light: how she was left in Tarsus and narrowly escaped death by Dionyza’s plot (though she doesn’t know that Cleon was an accessory after the fact), from thence by express pirate delivery to Mytilene. She leaves out the part of the story that involves a brothel, presumably so as not to distress Pericles still more. Her final pronouncement to him is, “I am the daughter to King Pericles…” (5.1.169).

What is Pericles to do with all this information? He first asks Helicanus for counsel, but the wise counselor simply doesn’t know, and neither does Lysimachus because she never revealed her parentage to him, either. At this, Pericles implores Helicanus to strike him physically into his senses: “put me to present pain, / Lest this great sea of joys rushing upon me / O’erbear the shores of my mortality / And drown me with their sweetness” (5.1.181-84). These are not only beautiful lines, but revealing ones, too: it seems fitting that the consummate expression of joy from a man who has suffered so much in and because of the sea should involve a metaphor involving the great movements of the ocean itself. Pericles is transformed by this strange knowledge, even reborn, as his joyful address to Marina as “Thou that begett’st him that did thee beget” (5.1.185). The last jewel in the revelatory crown is the name of Marina’s mother. At the sound of “Thaisa was my mother” (5.1.200), the truth for Pericles is undeniable and complete.

The end of the first scene in Act 5 is taken up with Pericles’s rapt hearing of the Music of the Spheres (see guide), which flows from the celestial harmony ordinarily imperceptible to mortal humankind. At last, an exhausted Pericles sleeps, only to receive a vision of the chaste goddess Diana. Her command is that Pericles should go to her temple at Ephesus and sacrifice, and when the priestesses are nearby, he is to give an accurate and moving recounting of his sorrowful experiences. The course is set for Ephesus, Lysimachus’s inevitable suit for Marina’s hand is granted even before he can get the words out of his mouth, and all that’s left is the carrying-out of Diana’s instructions for Pericles’s happiness to be complete.

Act 5, Scene 2 Prologue (pg. 203, Gower asks his hearers to imagine the celebration at Mytilene and skip forward to the final scene at Ephesus.)

John Gower again exercises his magical ability to whisk us through time and space to where the characters, and we, need to be. More about old Gower follows in my comments on the play’s Epilogue. Lysimachus’s wedding to Marina is still pending, by the way, since the goddess Diana’s commands must be carried out first.

Act 5, Scene 3 (203-205, Pericles obeys his dream vision of Diana and travels to the goddess’ temple at Ephesus. Here, Pericles recounts his losses as ordered, and Thaisa faints. But full and mutual recognitions follow all around. Pericles and Thaisa will rule in Pentapolis, while Lysimachus and Marina are bound for Tyre, where they will rule.

While Pericles recounts his tale as ordered by the goddess Diana, Thaisa faints because she recognizes her husband by his voice and appearance. Cerimon steps up to tell Pericles that this priestess is the very Thaisa of whom he has just spoken. The pair embrace joyfully, and Marina, kneeling, is revealed to Thaisa as her now-grown daughter. The transfiguration of Pericles’s attitude to pure joy is evident, and remarkably unalloyed for a romance play: he exclaims to the gods, “your present kindness / Makes my past miseries sports (5.3.40-41), and tells Thaisa, “Oh, come,  be buried / A second time within these arms” (5.3.43-44). This seems like a total, if temporary, overcoming of the dread power of death, not a bittersweet utterance of the sort we will see in Shakespeare’s subsequent romance plays. Helicanus is duly recognized as a loyal substitute for Pericles, too, and Cerimon is honored for the excellent role he played in reviving Thaisa. Since King Simonides has recently died, Pericles decides that he and Thaisa will be sovereigns in Pentapolis, while Lysimachus and Marina will travel to Tyre and establish themselves on the throne there.

With this conclusion, we are as far as we can get from the selfish, wicked liaison of Antiochus and his daughter at the play’s outset. The frame story of Gower’s Confessio Amantis entails a long recounting of the sins committed by the protagonist Amans (the lover) against Venus, or love itself, so it makes sense that Shakespeare and Wilkins should shape Pericles, Prince of Tyre as a story that moves its Protagonist from his initially showy, chivalric pursuit of a terribly flawed companion to the holy, divinely sanctified love of a good woman and his beloved daughter. In Tyre and Pentapolis, two happy, generous and public-spirited couples will serve at the helm of their respective governments. This is Shakespeare’s basic comedic framework, and it lends the play’s conclusion a sunnier disposition than we might have thought possible. There is less of the bittersweetness in this romance than in the later ones The Winter’s Tale and The Tempest, but it is just as enjoyable.

Epilogue (pp. 205-206, Gower caps off the play by reminding us of his own medieval moralist framework, which has seen the wicked punished and the good rewarded beyond their fondest dreams.)

Gower points to the distribution of rewards and punishments by the play’s end: the two happy couples, Helicanus, and Cerimon are all recognized as embodiments or emblems of their virtues, with Helicanus praised as “A figure of truth, of faith, of loyalty” (Epilogue 8), and Cerimon for his “learnèd charity” (10). Antiochus and his daughter, of course, died horribly, and so did Cleon and Dionyza for her wicked attempt on Marina’s life and his participation after the attempt. Gower’s final prayer is that the joy that reigns supreme at the play’s end should transfer itself to the audience. The last couplet runs “So, on your patience evermore attending, / New joy wait on you. Here our play has ending” (Epilogue 17-18). There is at least a hint here that as the audience has indulged the theater company’s need for its patience, part of the “new joy” for the audience might consist in an opportunity for them to behold yet another such play as Pericles, Prince of Tyre sometime soon.

Finally, John Gower by his ghostly performance throughout Pericles, Prince of Tyre joins the company of Shakespeare’s famous prologue- and epilogue-speakers: among others, the Prologue of Henry the Fifth with his stirring cry, “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend / The brightest heaven of invention”; the concluding song of Feste the wise clown in Twelfth Night: “We’ll strive to please you every day”; Prospero in The Tempest with his plea, “Gentle breath of yours my sails / Must fill, or else my project fails, / Which was to please”;  and Rosalind of As You Like It, with her admission, “It is not the fashion to see the lady the epilogue.” The general request among such figures is that we, the audience, should do our best to repair the limitations or defects of Shakespeare’s staged representations with our own imaginations and, perhaps just as important, with our charitable spirit, our “patience.”

Still, there is more to these first and last words in Shakespeare’s plays, and all of them repay close attention for the insight they provide regarding the nature and purpose of the theater, the standing of the audience, and other matters. Feste’s song lyric as quoted above can serve as an instance of such insight: he implies something about the value an audience might find in its theater-going experiences. Yes, we must leave the theater when the play is done, but we can always come back another day as “the whirligig of time” (to borrow Feste’s earlier expression) spins round and onward: the theater, then, serves as an inexhaustible wellspring of refreshing departures from the sordidness and tedium of the everyday world. There is not such a tragically permanent scission between “make-believe” and the real as some dour critics suggest there is and ought to be. Perhaps John Gower’s contribution as a speaker of first and last words has been to testify to the enduring power of poetry itself: he has returned to us in ghostly form to tell what Shakespeare’s friend and dramatic competitor Ben Jonson will call “a moldy tale” in a way that Shakespeare’s modern Jacobean audience can still learn from and appreciate.

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen, Walter Cohen, Suzanne Gossett, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Gordon McMullan, eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems + Digital Edition. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93862-3.

Copyright © 2023 Alfred J. Drake

Twelfth Night

Commentaries on Shakespeare’s Comedies

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Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. (Norton Comedies, 2nd ed. 689-750).

Act 1, Scene 1 (697-98, Orsino’s idealistic love, report of Olivia’s stylized mourning; my general comments on comic spirit)

The Duke and Olivia are both creatures of idealistic excess, determined to pursue their passions: he to love her, and she to mourn for her departed brother. Olivia, says Valentine in reporting back from her to Orsino, is determined in all she does for seven years “to season / A brother’s dead love, which she would keep fresh / And lasting in her sad remembrance” (698, 1.1.29-31). Orsino seems to understand that he and Olivia are kindred spirits. He claims at the beginning that he would surfeit himself with love to be rid of it, in the same way that overindulgence in food generates disgust with eating: “If music be the food of love, play on, / Give me excess of it that, surfeiting, / The appetite may sicken and so die” (697, 1.1.1-3). But that hardly seems to be the effect of his attitude. Rather, he seems to be “in love with love,” and his desire is to live perpetually in a realm removed from time, chance, and change. This attitude entails risk in that if persisted in too long, it will become a trap. Those who stylize and extend natural human passions certainly run this risk, and there’s no shortage of warnings to heed: the advice given by Claudius and Gertrude to the brooding prince in Act 1, Scene 2 of Hamlet may come from compromised sources, but it is reasonable counsel: mourning has its temporal and emotional limits, and when those aren’t respected, sorrow goes from being duly “obsequious” to transgressive.

But then, Illyria is the rarefied realm in which the lover Orsino and the mourner Olivia aim to live, so as Anne Barton (an editor of the Riverside Shakespeare) says, there’s no need for the characters in Twelfth Night to remove themselves to a Green World or any other magical space. They are in one already, and the ordinary laws of life don’t fully apply: Illyria seems to run strangely parallel with the order of human desire. Still, the harmony isn’t complete: Feste almost continually reminds us that this order is not the only one with which we must reckon: he neither affirms that desire can run parallel with the world nor denies it altogether. Viola’s strategy rivals his in its wisdom in that she commits her cause to time, neither affirming nor denying any possibility at the outset of the play. Later, Malvolio will remind us of this problem in a much less tolerant manner, and even that lord of misrule Sir Toby will show some wisdom about the dangers of pursuing one’s pleasure without check.

Act 1, Scene 2 (698-99, Captain and Viola reflect on hopes that Sebastian survived shipwreck; Viola’s decision to serve Orsino, commit to time)

Viola and the Sea Captain converse after her shipwreck, and he gives her hope that her brother Sebastian may have made it to shore: “I saw your brother, / Most provident in peril, bind himself—/ … / To a strong mast that lived upon the sea …” (698, 1.2.10-13). Viola admires what the Captain says about Olivia’s constancy to a lost brother (699, 1.2.32-37) and would serve her, but instead she decides to disguise herself and serve Duke Orsino. Perhaps Viola takes Olivia’s grief as a model for her own, should her brother turn out not to have survived. But the more compelling reason she gives for deciding to disguise herself is that she “… might not be delivered to the world, / Till I had made mine own occasion mellow, / What my estate is” (699, 1.2.38-40). Others may be after a more permanent refuge, but Viola plans to use her musical abilities to recommend her service to the Duke as a page, and for the rest, she commits her cause to the fullness of time: “What else may hap, to time I will commit” (699, 1.2.56). That willingness to commit one’s hopes to the fullness of time and the buffetings of chance, it seems, is a key attitude for Shakespeare’s comic heroes and heroines: it requires wisdom and generosity of spirit, openness to what life brings. Selfish characters lack these qualities and spend most of their time trying to control everything and everyone around them, a strategy that seldom yields happy results, even in a comic play.

Act 1, Scene 3 (700-02, Sir Toby’s liberated views, grooming of Sir Andrew as suitor to Olivia)

Sir Toby Belch operates on a different principle, one that becomes evident when he expresses his impatience with his niece Olivia: “What a plague means my niece to take the death of / her brother thus? I am sure care’s an enemy to life” (700, 1.3.1-2). When Maria tells him, “confine yourself within the modest / limits of order” (700, 1.3.6-7) in Olivia’s household, Sir Toby scoffs: “Confine? I’ll confine myself no finer than I am. These / clothes are good enough to drink in, and so be these boots too …” (700, 1.3.8-9).

We should consider Sir Toby’s function in the play in a broad context: the “Twelfth Night” referenced in the play’s title is January 5th, the last day of Christmas celebrations that begin on December 25th. This day is followed by the Feast of Epiphany on January 6th, which commemorates the visit of the Magi or three wise men to see the infant Jesus. (See Matthew 2:1-12). During the Middle Ages, at least, one of the feasts that occurred during this twelve-day period was the Feast of Fools, which is associated with a feast in celebration of the Circumcision of the Lord, Jan. 1st. I believe both Henry VIII and Elizabeth I banned this Feast of Fools out of Protestant disdain for the licentiousness with which it had come to be associated (it drew a lot of criticism on the Continent during the medieval period, too; indeed, the title and tradition go back to pre-Christian times: a lord of misrule presided over a weeklong December Roman holiday called Saturnalia, instituted as early as the third century BCE). In any case, for the Feast of Fools, a lord of misrule would be chosen to preside over this time of merrymaking and reversal.

Sir Toby Belch functions much like a lord of misrule in Shakespeare’ play, keeping alive for contemporary Christmas festivities the memory of this ancient pagan and early Christian tradition. Critics like Mikhail Bakhtin have studied such goings-on under the heading of the carnivalesque, in which the otherwise binding social structures of everyday life are comically mocked and satirized for a limited time, and then things go back to normal. Sir Toby’s role is apparent from the earlier lines I quoted, and it becomes still clearer when we see him engaging in jesting conversation with Sir Andrew Aguecheek.

Toby wants to send the dupe Andrew in pursuit of Olivia for his own fun and profit. He doesn’t have much respect for Andrew, and he doesn’t take the other characters too seriously, either. But a further point is that as far as Toby is concerned, one love object is as good as another; he doesn’t share the exclusivity we find in Orsino or, later, in Viola. Sir Toby sets Andrew after Maria as practice for his future pursuit of Olivia, eliciting only Sir Andrew’s foolish mistake in thinking that the word “accost” is the lady’s name (701, 1.3.44). True, Sir Andrew goes out of his way to prove Toby wrong, repeatedly making a fool of himself when his benefactor would like to turn him into a rake, and make a decent profit from gulling him over his hopes for Olivia as well. Nonetheless, Toby stands for a generalized pursuit of happiness, for a rounding off and leveling of discrimination and judgment in choosing the object of one’s desires. Desire, for him, is the key component in a pleasure-yielding system: the point is simply to be part of the system. I think the Riverside editor is right to say that Sir Toby exists on his own time and that he has banished ordinary time from his life. But he’s also quite accepting of his own and others’ imperfections, and he insists that Sir Andrew ought not hide his talents as a dancer but should instead use them to the fullest extent: “Wherefore are these things hid?… / Is it a world to hide virtues in?” (702, 1.3.105-10)

Act 1, Scene 4 (702-03, Orsino commissions Viola/Cesario to woo Olivia for him: a trap for Viola)

Intimacy strikes up immediately between Duke Orsino and Viola (disguised as “Cesario”). He believes his suit will prosper if he carries it forwards with Viola/Cesario as his intermediary. The youth’s fresh appearance, he supposes, will redound to his credit: “It shall become thee well to act my woes – / She will attend it better in thy youth” (703, 1.4.25-26). Comically, Orsino adds a comment about Viola/Cesario’s feminine appearance: “Diana’s lip/Is not more smooth and rubious; thy small pipe/Is as the maiden’s organ, shrill and sound,/And all is semblative a woman’s part” (703 1.4.30-33). Viola realizes immediately what a trap her gender disguise has become: “I’ll do my best/To woo your lady – [aside] yet a barful strife –/Whoe’er I woo, myself would be his wife” (703, 1.4.39-41).

Act 1, Scene 5 (703-10, Feste proves Olivia a fool; Malvolio insults Feste; Olivia falls for proxy suitor Viola/Cesario)

We are introduced to the rest of the main characters: Olivia, Maria her maid, and Feste. Feste’s initial words are important because they show us yet another perspective on the sway of the passions and the imperfections to which human beings are liable: “God give them wisdom that have it; and those that / are fools, let them use their talents” (704, 1.5.13-14), he says to Maria, implying that a fool should strive to become even more foolish. But Feste’s foolery turns out be a species of wisdom, and wisdom sets a person apart, though not in hostility. We will find that other characters are more immediately subject to the vicissitudes of that biblical dynamic duo “time and chance” than is Feste, and they must shift as they can, while Feste himself remains a constant in the play. His wisdom consists partly in being able to formulate claims such as the one he offers Olivia in an attempt to prove she deserves his title: “Anything/ that’s mended is but patched. Virtue that transgresses is but/patched with sin, and sin that amends is but patched with vir-/tue. If that this simple syllogism will serve, so; if it will not, what/remedy? As there is no true cuckold but calamity, so beauty’s a/flower” (704, 1.5.40-45). Feste considers Olivia a fellow fool because of her over-grieving for the loss of her brother. In her quest for a perfectly stylized kind of mourning, this lovely absolutist risks the passage of her beauty, in itself a remarkable if transient thing of perfection. Feste seems to understand that in this saucy world there is no permanent strategy to be found; there is only mending of virtues with vices and vice versa; there is accommodation and negotiation between one person and another, and (to use a modern term from economics) always one must consider the “opportunity cost” of one’s choices, one’s actions.

Malvolio soon comes on the scene as a Puritan killjoy: “I marvel your ladyship takes delight in such a barren / rascal. I saw him put down the other day with an ordinary fool/that has no more brain than a stone” (705, 1.5.71-73), is his pronouncement to Olivia regarding Feste. Olivia shows that she understands Malvolio’s excessive reliance on rigid virtue: he is filled with self-love, she says, and his earnestness is a bore: “There is no slander in an allowed fool, though he do nothing but rail; nor no railing in a known discreet man, though he do nothing but reprove” (705, 1.5.80-82).

Olivia also seems to be leading Orsino on: she’s curious to see what his next move as an importunate, fantastical suitor will be: “We’ll once more hear Orsino’s embassy” (707, 1.5.148). His new intermediary, Viola/Cesario, wins Olivia’s interest immediately and her love almost at first sight; she is struck with the youth’s beauty and graceful ways, in the classical manner of attraction: what happens to her is sudden and she has no control over it. As Malvolio says, Viola/Cesario is “in standing water between / boy and man” (706, 1.5.141-42). This liminality is probably in part what makes Viola/Cesario attractive to Olivia, as I suggested above. The outcome of the Duke’s comic miscalculation is predictable: Olivia goes for the “eye candy” Orsino has proffered and not for him. Orsino has given Viola/Cesario license to establish a sense of intimacy with Olivia, and it is just this intimacy that bonds people together and makes them apt to fall in love. What initially appeals to Olivia, I believe, is the freshness or the newness of Viola/Cesario: the fact that “he” still seems to be all potential, a being still to be determined. The Countess is open to something new, and the bond of intimacy is made very quickly, probably when Viola/Cesario says at the beginning of their conversation, “Good beauties, let me sustain no scorn; I am very / ‘countable, even to the least sinister usage” (707, 1.5.155-56).

The passage in which Olivia unveils her face at the request of Viola/Cesario is worth notice: “we will draw / the curtain and show you the picture,” says the Countess, and she goes on to describe her face as a portrait that will “endure wind and weather” (708, 1.5.204-05, 208). This is true enough, although it makes sense to hear Feste’s song at the play’s end as a comment on the limitations of such endurance: “the wind and the rain” (750, 5.1.377) are always at work, breaking down what seemed timeless, and we are put in mind of Feste’s earlier conversation with Olivia, in which he had said beauty is a perishing flower (704, 1.5.45).

As the conversation continues, Viola/Cesario’s rhetorical boldness shows Olivia the way to give in to her own passions: “If I did love you in my master’s flame, / With such a suff’ring, such a deadly life, / In your denial I would find no sense; / I would not understand it” (708, 1.5.233-36). By the end of the scene, Olivia will be madly in love, and unable to comprehend Viola/Cesario’s reluctance, so she will have to turn to the stratagem of the ring (709, 1.5.270-76) to ensure the future presence of this new object of her desire. Her sudden change of heart shows in her final lines of the scene: “Fate, show thy force. Ourselves we do not owe, / What is decreed must be; and be this so” (710, 1.5.280-81).

What keeps Olivia from loving the Duke anyway, aside from the rather flimsy one of dedication to her brother (which lasts about three minutes once she meets Viola/Cesario)? I don’t know that the play really explains her rejection of him, except perhaps that he’s too available and too obviously “after” her. All she says is that Duke Orsino is “A gracious person; but yet I cannot love him./He might have took his answer long ago” (708, 1.5.231-32). One theme of interest in Twelfth Night is its exploration of how we choose our erotic objects, or how they choose us. Discrimination and rejection are two main ways of eventually finding one’s favored object of desire, and I think we are given to understand that Olivia considers herself and Orsino too alike in their tendencies towards idealistic extremes to make a good match.

Act 2, Scene 1 (710-10, Antonio forges bond with Sebastian, will follow him to Orsino’s court)

Antonio, who had rescued Sebastian from the ocean earlier, instantly forms an unbreakable bond with him. Antonio insists he will follow Sebastian to the Duke’s Court, no matter what the danger to himself: “But come what may, I do adore thee so / That danger shall seem sport, and I will go” (710, 2.1.41-42).

Act 2, Scene 2 (711-11, Olivia’s ring sets Viola/Cesario thinking about gender, frailty, frustration)

By this time, Viola is in a state almost as extreme as that of Olivia and Duke Orsino since she loves the latter and is loved by the former in the guise of Cesario. I don’t know that Viola has any more control over the course of events than others in this play, but some advantage, it’s reasonable to suggest, stems from her disguise and the perspective it lends. This is by no means a comedy of the humors* but it is a comedy of our inevitable frailty in the presence of strong passions. First, Viola sees that her adoption of a gender disguise is a trap that’s leading her towards frustration: “Disguise, I see thou art a wickedness / Wherein the pregnant enemy does much” (711, 2.2.25-26). Secondly, she is able to generalize from her own experience: “How easy is it for the proper false / In women’s waxen hearts to set their forms! / Alas, our frailty is the cause, not we, / For such as we are made of, such we be” (711, 2.2.27-30). The “we” here is “women,” but it isn’t hard to extend the point to capture a sense of the fragility and changeableness of general humanity.

This ability does not, however, make it possible for Viola to extricate herself from the difficult situation she is in: “O Time, thou must untangle this, not I; / It is too hard a knot for me t’ untie!” (40-41)

*Footnote: the theory of the humors traces back to the Greek physician Hippocrates (c. 460-370 BCE): the four humors or bodily fluids are black bile (associated with the element earth), yellow bile (fire), phlegm (water), and blood (air). A balanced amount of these fluids in the body maintained health and good temperament, while an excess of the first-mentioned (black bile) could make a person depressed or irritable; excess of the second (yellow bile) angry, ill-tempered; excess of the third (phlegm) taciturn, unemotional; excess of the fourth (blood) amorous or bold to the point of lechery or foolhardiness.

Act 2, Scene 3 (711-15, Malvolio interrupts Toby & Co.’s reveling, Maria hatches letter-plot)

This is another comic scene between Toby, Andrew, and Feste. Toby has been drinking and jesting as usual. First comes a delightful parody of philosophical discourse: Toby: “To be / up after midnight and to go to bed then is early; so that to go / to bed after midnight is to go to bed betimes. Does not our lives / consist of the four elements?” (712, 2.3.5-8) To which Andrew replies, “Faith, so they say, but I think it rather consists of / eating and drinking” (712, 2.3.9-10). Next comes a call for some music. Feste’s song suggests that love sees only the joy of the present, that deferral and indeed any attempt to banish time are of no account: “In delay there lies no plenty, / Then come kiss me, sweet and twenty. / Youth’s a stuff will not endure” (713, 2.3. to gain insight into the fragility of common humanity to gain insight into the fragility of common humanity 46-48). Feste sanctions neither prudence nor pastoral idylls such as Marlowe’s “The Passionate Shepherd to His Love.”

Sir Toby, Maria, and Andrew are offended at Malvolio’s killjoy demands that they stop making so much merriment in Olivia’s home: “Do ye make an alehouse of my lady’s/house, that ye squeak out your coziers’ catches without any/mitigation or remorse of voice? Is there no respect of place,/persons, nor time in you?” (713, 2.3.78-83). Toby’s put-down of Malvolio is a classic: “Art anymore/than a steward? Dost thou think, because thou art virtuous there / shall be no more cakes and ale?” (713, 2.3.102-04) Sic Semper to all prigs! Maria’s letter scheme to get revenge against Malvolio wins the admiration of Toby and Andrew. Malvolio is easy prey because he is vain about his looks and seems to think he deserves a quick promotion to a higher social rank: he is in deadly and permanent earnest about the Twelfth Night license to change one’s rank. Maria says she will succeed because this puritan hypocrite is “so crammed, as he thinks, with excellencies, that it is his/grounds of faith that all that look on him love him; and on/that device in him will my revenge find notable cause to work” (714-15 2.3.134-36). Her plan is as follows: “I will drop in his way some obscure epistles of love,/wherein by the colour of his beard, the shape of his leg, the/manner of his gait, the expressure of his eye, forehead, and/complexion, he shall find himself most feelingly personated. I/can write very like my lady your niece …” (715, 2.3.138-42).

Andrew, however, is most concerned with his suit to Olivia failing and leaving him out of funds: “If I cannot recover your niece, I am a foul way/out” (715, 2.3.163-64). This makes Andrew easy prey for Sir Toby.

Act 2, Scene 4 (715-18, Orsino and Viola/Cesario debate male/female love; Feste sings of love/death)

Viola/Cesario and the Duke discuss love matters, and he opens up to her while Feste plays some music for them: Orsino admits that men’s love is less constant than women’s love: “Our fancies are more giddy and unfirm,/More longing, wavering, sooner lost and worn,/Than women’s are” (716, 2.4.32-34). But the Duke is playing the importunate suitor, and his subsequent remarks are contradictory. He insists that no woman could possibly love as strongly as he loves Olivia: “There is no woman’s sides/Can bide the beating of so strong a passion” (717, 2.4.91-92). To this, Viola/Cesario alludes cryptically to her own love for Orsino, and insists that “We men may say more, swear more, but indeed/Our shows are more than will; for still we prove/Much in our vows, but little in our love” (718, 2.4.115-17).

In between this argument’s halves, Feste’s song connects love with death, the ultimate in consequences: “Come away, come away death,/And in sad cypress let me be laid./Fie away, fie away breath,/I am slain by a fair cruel maid” (716, 2.4.50-53), and he warns the Duke afterwards, “pleasure will be paid, one time or / another” (717, 2.4.69).

Act 2, Scene 5 (718-22, Malvolio finds Maria’s letter and takes the bait: his selfish delusions peak)

The conspirators turn Malvolio into a fool in a reverie. Maria is certain that the puritan will become “a contemplative idiot” once he gets wind of the letter (718, 2.5.16-17), and she isn’t disappointed. Even before he spies out the letter, Malvolio is waxing hopeful: “To be Count Malvolio!” (719, 2.5.30) and “to have the humour of state and …/telling them I know my place, as I/would they should do theirs …” (719, 2.5.47-49). Things go from absurd to more absurd once the letter comes into reading range: Malvolio muses on the inscription, “I may command where I adore,/But silence like a Lucrece knife/With bloodless stroke my heart doth gore./M.O.A.I. doth sway my life’ (720, 2.5.94-97) and goes on to ponder the significance of “Some are born great, some achieve / greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon’em” (721, 2.5.126-27). To succeed, Malvolio need only don yellow stockings and smile like a fool (721, 2.5.132-34, 152-53).

Sir Toby predicts that Malvolio, when finally disabused of his delusions of grandeur, will run mad (722, 2.5.168-69). This hyper-critical moralist has become just another foolish lover. He’s a minor comic version of Euripides’ Pentheus in The Bacchantes, to be destroyed by the Dionysian revelers whose fun he tried to tamp down. (Except that Pentheus didn’t get to wear cross-garters and yellow stockings.) Indeed, a hint of violence had entered the picture early with the mention of Lucretia: Malvolio recognized the letter as Olivia’s because the seal bore an impression of Lucrece, the famous Roman wife who killed herself after being raped by Sextus Tarquinius, the son of the last Etruscan king Tarquinius Superbus: “By your leave, / wax—soft, and the impressure her Lucrece, with which she / uses to seal—tis my lady” (720, 2.5.83-85). Malvolio is no Tarquin, but he is prideful, and he intends to move beyond his proper station in life (that of a steward) by means of a most improper and self-aggrandizing suit to his employer.

Malvolio has been convinced by Maria’s bogus letter that “greatness” has simply been “thrust upon him,” if only he will make the proper gestures and dress right. A darker impression might be that like so many deniers of life, Malvolio means to set up a rival order of perfection against the imperfect world around us all; what else is that but pride, a self-deluded desire for autonomy to cover one’s fear and emptiness?

Act 3, Scene 1 (722-26, Viola/Cesario assesses Feste’s wit, Olivia confesses her love to Viola/Cesario, who answers her with a gender-riddle)

In conversation with Viola/Cesario, Feste declares himself not the Countess Olivia’s fool but her “corrupter of words” (723, 3.1.31), and when he’s through making his jests, Viola points out that playing the role of fool requires much perceptiveness: “This fellow is wise enough to play the fool, / And to do that well craves a kind of wit. / He must observe their mood on whom he jests, / The quality of persons, and the time …” (723, 3.1.53-56). In Feste, “folly” is appropriate: it’s his way of maintaining perspective in a strange and contradictory world and it allows him to do something like what a courtier must do: engage with various people at a level and in a manner that suits them and him. But in those who are wise in the usual way, folly and word-hashing may bring them into discredit.

Olivia continues to wear her passion on her skirt-sleeve. She admits to Viola/Cesario that the ring business was a device meant to augment a sense of intimacy between herself and the youth: “I did send, / After the last enchantment you did here, / A ring in chase of you” (724, 3.1.103-05), and asks, “Have you not set mine honour at the stake / …?” (725, 3.1.110) To Olivia’s confession that “Nor wit nor reason can my passion hide” (725, 3.1.143), Viola/Cesario can only speak in riddles thanks to the bind into which her gender-disguising has put her, giving only this frustrating response to love-stricken Olivia: “I have one heart, one bosom, and one truth, / And that no woman has, nor never none / Shall mistress be of it save I alone” (726, 3.1.149-51). Riverside editor Anne Barton is right to suggest that Viola’s disguise doesn’t exactly liberate her in the same way that, say, Rosalind’s disguise does in As You Like It. It buys her some time and affords her some perspective, but it isn’t exactly freedom to experiment at will that Viola gains in her disguise as “Cesario.”

Act 3, Scene 2 (726-27, Sir Toby eggs on Sir Andrew: reflections on male valor)

Fabian stirs up Sir Andrew (726, 3.2.15-16, 22-24), and Sir Toby shows his contempt for Sir Andrew’s lack of valor here, admitting that he’s taken him for a considerable sum already: to Fabian he says, “I have been dear to him, lad, some two thousand / strong or so” (727, 3.2.46-47). Andrew is more his quarry than his protégé. The following advice Toby gives Andrew is worth quoting: “Taunt him with the license of ink. If thou ‘thou’st’ him some / thrice, it shall not be amiss, and as many lies as will lie in thy / sheet of paper … / set ’em down. Go about it” (727, 3.2.37-40). We can find genuine exemplars of male heroism in Shakespeare (Prince Hal and Hotpur in I Henry IV, for instance, or Macduff in Macbeth), but here, as elsewhere, there’s strong awareness that male posturing is an ancient profession: the semblance of valor often substitutes successfully for the thing itself. Shakespeare’s is a world amply populated with what Rosalind in As You Like It calls “mannish cowards” who stare down the world until it blinks: they “outface it with their semblances” (642 Norton Comedies, 1.3.115-16).

Act 3, Scene 3 (727-28, Antonio in town to help Sebastian, gives him purse to guard)

Antonio remains a faithful friend to Sebastian, and has followed him to town save him from danger in spite of the peril to himself since, as he explains, “Once in a sea-fight ’gainst the Count his galleys / I did some service” (728, 3.3.26-27). Antonio gives his new friend his purse to guard (728, 3.3.38): another act indicative of a strong bond between the two.

Act 3, Scene 4 (729-736, Malvolio makes his pitch to Olivia; Sir Andrew spurred to duel with Viola/Cesario; Olivia confesses her love still more intensely to Viola/Cesario, Antonio assists Viola/Cesario and is arrested, betrayed; Viola takes heart at Antonio’s confused mention of Sebastian)

Malvolio, now drawn entirely beyond himself and vulnerable, makes his unintentionally comic pitch to Countess Olivia, which consists mainly of smiling bizarrely and mentioning with pride his yellow stockings (729-30), and will be carted off to a dark cell as a madman. Olivia professes the greatest concern for the poor lunatic’s welfare: “Good Maria, let this fellow be looked to…. / …. I would not have him miscarry for the half of my dowry” (730, 3.4.57-59). Oddly, though, she will forget about him until nearly the end of the play. Malvolio has no idea how much trouble he’s in, and believes his suit has been a fantastic success, thanks to Jove’s good will: “nothing that can be can come between me / and the full prospect of my hopes (730, 3.4.74-75).

At this point, Sir Toby thinks he can play out the jest at his own pace: “Come, we’ll have him in a dark room and bound. My / niece is already in the belief that he’s mad. We may carry it / thus for our pleasure and his penance till our very pastime, / tired out of breath, / prompt us to have mercy on him …” (731, 3.4.121-24).

Sir Andrew is now spurred on to challenge Viola/Cesario as a rival suitor. As so often, Shakespeare makes fun of masculine pretensions to high honor and mastery of violence: neither Sir Andrew nor Viola/Cesario is any kind of fighter, but at least the latter knows better than to suppose otherwise. Words take the place of violence. Sir Toby advises Andrew, “draw, as thou drawest, swear horrible; for it comes to pass / oft that a terrible oath, / with a swaggering accent sharply / twanged off, gives manhood more approbation than ever / proof itself would have earned him” (732, 3.4.158-61). Part of Sir Toby’s fun will be to cure the malady described by means of a homeopathic remedy: putting two pretenders together in a ridiculous duel. Sir Toby is enjoying himself, and devises to deliver Sir Andrew’s challenge in person (ignoring the letter) and thereby “drive the gentleman [Cesario] … / into a most hideous opinion of his rage, skill, fury, and / impetuosity. This will so fright them both that they will kill one / another by the look , like cockatrices” (732, 3.4.170-73). After practically begging Fabian and Sir Toby to mollify the fearsome Sir Andrew, Viola puns to herself, “Pray God defend me. A little thing would make / me tell them how much I lack of a man” (734, 3.4.268-69). Viola recognizes that her disguise is more than ever a trap: this situation can’t go on much longer.

While all this planning is going on, Olivia admits her fear to Viola/Cesario that she has “said too much unto a heart of stone, / And laid mine honour too unchary out” (732, 3.4.178-79). She has risked her honor, but perhaps more importantly, to speak this way is to risk being confronted with the reverberation of one’s own unrestrained passion as a kind of madness.

Antonio soon arrives and takes it upon himself to maintain Viola/Cesario’s part in the quarrel: “I for him defy you” (735, 3.4.279), whereupon he is challenged by an incredulous Sir Toby and then arrested for piracy by the Duke’s officers (735, 3.4.283-84, 291-92). Drawn into the craziness that is Illyria, Antonio believes Sebastian is betraying him because Viola/Cesario won’t hand over the purse Antonio had given Sebastian a while back, now that he needs the money in it for bail (735, 3.4.312). “Thou hast, Sebastian, done good feature shame” is the only utterance Antonio can summon in his amazement (736, 3.4.330). Even so, the mention of Sebastian is useful to Viola, who now gains some hope that her lost brother has survived: “Prove true, imagination, O prove true, / That I, dear brother, be now ta’en for you!” (736, 3.4.339-40)

Act 4, Scene 1 (736-38, Sebastian is drawn into Illyrian topsy-turvy: Olivia invites him home)

Sebastian enters and Feste is surprised to hear him deny his identity as Cesario (736-37, 4.1.4-7). Sir Toby nearly comes to blows with Sebastian after Sir Andrew has struck the fellow, and is only stopped by Olivia, who dismisses Toby from the field (737, 4.1.39, 41). Olivia invites Sebastian to her house (738, 4.1.50), and with that invitation he is formally drawn into Illyria’s topsy-turvyness, just as Antonio was in the previous scene. His wonderment will only increase at the end of the third scene.

Act 4, Scene 2 (738-40, Feste sports as Sir Topas with confined Malvolio: Pythagoras and post-mortems; Sir Toby is worried about carrying the jest too far, risking Olivia’s anger)

Maria and Feste make more sport of the confine Malvolio. Feste joins the fun as an examiner of Malvolio, Sir Topas (a name probably borrowed from Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales). Feste is a fool by trade, so we are treated to a dialogue between a supposed madman and a fool, with the latter easily gaining the upper hand. Feste’s use of belief in Pythagorean transmigration as a touchstone for sanity is priceless: when Malvolio refuses to believe that “the soul of our grandam might haply inhabit a / bird” (739, 4.2.45-46), Feste imperiously tells him, “Remain thou still in darkness. Thou shalt / hold th’ opinion of Pythagoras ere I will allow of thy wits, and / fear to kill a woodcock lest thou dispossess the soul of thy gran- / dam” (739, 4.2.50-53). This makes sense because after all, Malvolio’s pride caused him to denigrate those below him in rank, and Pythagoras’ doctrine implies respect for all creatures great and small. We may add hypocrisy to Malvolio’s petty crimes since, as a denier of life and upholder of rigid notions about rank and propriety, he’s quick to jump at the chance to improve his own condition. Viola commits her cause to time and reaps a reward, but Malvolio’s ill-intentioned leap nets him only isolation and mockery. Finally, Feste taunts Malvolio with the view that he won’t believe anyone is or isn’t mad until he’s seen their exposed brains after death. For him, the jury is always out on a person’s sanity until that person dies (740, 4.2.107-08). It was a letter that got Malvolio in trouble in the first place, and Feste now honors an anguished call for “a candle, and pen, ink, and paper” (740, 4.2.75) that the prisoner may make his plight known to Olivia. Feste leaves Malvolio with a mocking song, “Adieu, goodman devil” (740, 4.2.122).

Sir Toby, however, is starting to worry about his niece’s good opinion. He says to Feste and Maria, “I would we were well rid of this / knavery. If he may be conveniently delivered, I would he were, / for I am now so far in offence with my niece that I cannot / pursue with any safety this sport to the upshot” (739, 4.2.60-63). Toby realizes that his term of office as lord of misrule has a limit, and he doesn’t want to lose his place with the countess. A jest too long continued becomes cruelty, not sport or sanctioned payback.

Act 4, Scene 3 (741-41, Olivia abruptly proposes and Sebastian abruptly accepts)

In the third scene, Sebastian abruptly agrees to marry Olivia after she abruptly and secretly proposes to him. He can hardly believe his good fortune, but accepts: “I am ready to distrust mine eyes / And wrangle with my reason that persuades me / To any other trust but that I am mad, / Or else the lady’s mad. Yet if ’twere so / She could not sway her house, command her followers …” (741, 4.3.13-17).

Act 5, Scene 1 (741-50, Viola/Sebastian reunite; Orsino/Viola, Sebastian/Olivia together; Toby/Maria; Malvolio rails, is upbraided, exits; Feste’s last song: wind and rain, fool’s perspective)

Antonio is trotted out before Duke Orsino as a prisoner, and this prisoner reproaches Viola/Cesario, whom of course he takes for Sebastian, over the bail money he supposedly withheld (743, 5.1.71-73). Orsino tells Antonio he must be insane since Viola/Cesario has been his page for three months (743, 5.1.94). Next, Olivia reproaches Viola/Cesario for her alleged failure to “keep promise” with the agreement she has come to with Sebastian (743, 5.1.98). The Duke is still upset with the obdurate Olivia: “Why should I not, had I the heart to do it, / Like to th’ Egyptian thief, at point of death / Kill what I love …” (744, 5.1.113-15) and even more upset with Viola/Cesario, whom he suspects has stolen Olivia from him altogether since she calls the youth “husband” (744, 5.1.138).

As if things couldn’t get any more confusing, in rushes Sir Andrew calling for a surgeon to treat Sir Toby, who has been slightly injured by Sebastian (745, 5.1.168ff). Now the play’s misrecognition dilemmas begin to resolve since Viola/Cesario is sincerely confused at the accusations Sir Andrew levels: “Why do you speak to me? I never hurt you” (745, 5.1.181). Sir Toby rails at Sir Andrew, calling him “an ass-head, and a coxcomb, and a / knave; a thin-faced knave, a gull” (746, 5.1.198-99), and then in comes Sebastian himself, solicitous of Olivia for his lateness considering their vows (746, 5.1.206-07). Orsino is astonished at the likeness between Viola/Cesario and Sebastian: “One face, one voice, one habit, and two persons, / A natural perspective, that is and is not” (746, 5.1.208-09). These two proceed to recognize each other for certain by means of recollections about their father from Messaline (746-47, 5.1.219-41). The reconciliation leaves Duke Orsino and Viola, and Olivia and Sebastian, free to marry.

But there’s one final matter to take care of: Malvolio. Feste and Fabian enter with the letter that Malvolio has penned and Feste reads it in the assembled company’s presence: “By the Lord, madam, you wrong me, and the / world shall know it…” (748, 5.1.292-99). At last, the man himself enters on a sour note, demanding to know why he has been so abused: “Why have you suffered me to be imprisoned, / Kept in a dark house, visited by the priest, / And made the most notorious geck and gull / That e’er invention played on? Tell me why?” (749, 5.1.330-33) The conspirators confess, with Feste invoking “the whirligig of time” that “brings in his revenges” (749, 5.1.364), and reminding Malvolio how he had slandered him to Olivia as “a barren rascal” (749, 5.1.363) even before the insults that sparked Maria’s letter-plot in Act 2, Scene 3. What he’s really invoking is something like what we today would generally call “bad karma,” or in a Christian context, the thriftiness of the economy of sin: ill thoughts and deeds, as Saint Augustine taught, establishes its own patterns; we end up with a bitter harvest from the bad seed we have sown. The conspirators are forgiven by everyone but Malvolio, who swears to be revenged on them all (749, 5.1.365), prompting Olivia to send after him to “entreat him to a peace” (749, 5.1.365). It’s not unusual in Shakespearian comedy to leave some character as the odd man out at play’s end. For example, the melancholy Monsieur Jacques in As You Like It can hardly be expected to transform into a carefree, upbeat character just because almost everyone else is happy at the play’s conclusion. But there’s no question of punishing Jacques. In sum, I don’t believe Twelfth Night is a problem comedy just because of Malvolio’s sour exit: the providence that seems to guide this play is hardly as rough-hewn as the one that we may see at work in Hamlet, where Polonius is killed by mishap, poor Ophelia runs mad and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern “go to it” in England. We find out that Sir Toby has married Maria (749, 5.1.350). Viola agrees to wed the Duke, and Olivia has already made her vows with Sebastian.

Feste’s song ends the play (750, 5.1.376-95), and it would be worthwhile to consider the role his songs play in advancing or reflecting upon the action and characters in Twelfth Night. For now, I’ll just consider the way the final song sums up the play. “The rain it raineth every day,” sings Feste, and his lyrics invoke the increasing consequentiality even of “trifles” as a person grows to maturity. The “knaves and thieves” will find themselves left out in the wind and the rain, when men “shut their gate.” Feste’s role, that of a fool, is perhaps the only stable one in a world turned upside down; oftentimes, the fool alone is able to maintain and offer perspective. Others in this play risk more, and gain more—especially Olivia and Viola, most likely because they have sufficient inward value to begin with, and trial by experience proves and augments that value. (The shallow Sir Andrews of the play’s world end up worse off by the same trial.) Feste, however, remains the observant, wise man he already was: he is inside the play looking around, but also inside the play looking outward at us, the audience, and he seems almost to be one of us at times. The conclusion of Feste’s song brings in a note of metadrama: “we’ll strive to please you every day” (750, 5.1.395), he says. We can always come back to the theater, where, of course, the play-realm will mediate between its own freedom and the world of time and consequence, but Feste will remind us yet again that soon we must leave. Perhaps, then, theater is among the “patches” Feste had mentioned back in the first act (704, 1.5.40-45): what it offers by way of insight and refuge may be temporary and partial rather than permanent and absolute, but that doesn’t mean it’s of no value or not worth pursuing. The foolery in Shakespeare is seldom, to borrow a line from King Lear, “altogether fool.” Feste and his kind are excellent embodiments of the suppleness and playfulness that constitute a big part of the value in dramatic exploration.

The key concern of this play set during a time of merrymaking and reversal may be how we “fools of time” may gain perspective. (The phrase is from Sonnet 124: “To this I witness call the fools of time, / Which die for goodness, who have lived for crime”) There is “a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance,” as the preacher tells us in Ecclesiastes 3:4. Everything has its allotted time and purpose under heaven. We have encountered a number of forms of stylized or excessive passion in Twelfth Night: Sir Toby’s irresponsible mirth, Duke Orsino’s romantic grandiosity, Countess Olivia’s projected long period of mourning, Malvolio’s narrow-souled, extreme ambition and self-regard. Perhaps most or all of these approaches are attempts to deny or even annul time and consequentiality. Feste’s music and witty observations both invoke the inevitability of time and the sway of our foolish passions, and they’re probably as close to “another way” as we are going to find in Shakespeare: I mean they offer us a way to gain something like permanent right-side-up perspective outside the realms of time and passion. Theater, as noted in Feste’s epilogue, may be another way of attaining such perspective, and just as Feste reminds us of the coming and going of nature’s vast seasonal cycles (the wind and the rain keep up their activity through the ages, though men shut their doors against it), we are told that while we must pass from the theater, we can always return so long as we live. Theater has that regenerative power, though of course whether or not the result of our many returns is wisdom is another question. The play leaves the characters in the fantasy-bubble Illyria, a political order that has largely made good on our opening suspicion that it exists to serve its citizens’ fondest desires, and there’s no talk of their leaving.

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen et al., eds. The Norton Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Four-Volume Genre Paperback Set. Norton, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93152-5.

Copyright © 2012 Alfred J. Drake

Pericles, Prince of Tyre

Questions on Shakespeare’s Romance Plays

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Shakespeare, William. Pericles, Prince of Tyre. (Norton Romances and Poems, 3rd ed. 139-206).


1. In Act 1, Prologue, John Gower sets the stage for us in his prologue: King Antiochus of Antioch lost his wife and is now in an incestuous relationship with his daughter; young Prince Pericles has come to Antioch to take his chances with the riddle in which the king has wrapped up his wicked relations with his daughter, with her hand in marriage as the prize. Explain what you can about Pericles’s approach to life – that is, to fortune, wealth, love and the gods. In what sense might we say that he is at this point the perfect comic protagonist?

2. In Act 1, Scene 1, what is the wording of the riddle? Is it difficult or easy to solve? Why is the manner of this riddle appropriate to the taboo nature of its content? Why have so many men apparently failed to solve it and lost their lives as a result? Why is Pericles able to solve it, unlike his predecessors in this quest?

3. In Act 1, Scenes 1-2, and particularly in the latter, how does Pericles respond to the threat presented to him by his solving the riddle? What qualities as a man and as a potential leader does he show? How do his responses cut against any notion that he is merely a naïve young man — what does he understand that shows his potential and even maturity?

4. In Act 1, Scene 2, Pericles makes his way back to Tyre and informs Helicanus about what has happened. What counsel does Helicanus give the Prince, and what qualities does this subject show in giving it?

5. In Act 1, Scene 3, we again meet Thaliart, the commoner Antiochus had ordered to kill Pericles. How does Thaliart understand his situation? What principle does he enunciate regarding the relationship between kings and subjects? How does he react to the news from Helicanus that Pericles has gone traveling and is no longer in the kingdom?

6. In Act 1, Scene 4, we meet Governor Cleon and his wife Dionyza of the great biblical city Tarsus. What is their situation? How does Cleon describe it in detail, and what attitude do both he and his wife manifest towards their plight? In what spirit does Cleon greet the coming of Pericles’s well-provisioned fleet of ships and the prince’s generous offer of assistance?


7. In Act 2, Prologue, John Gower again acts as chorus for the coming action, and as usual his narration is accompanied by a “Dumb show.” In this or in any of the scenes in which Gower functions as a chorus, in what way does his manner of imparting information impact your understanding of the play?

8. In Act 2, Scene 1, Pericles, having been shipwrecked, washes up on the coast of Pentapolis and encounters some fishermen there. How does he set forth his predicament and make his claim upon their assistance? How do they respond to what Pericles requests? Furthermore, what symbolic significance might we attach to the fishermen’s discovery of a rusty suit of armor that washes up along the same stretch of the coast? Why is it so important to Pericles?

9. In Act 2, Scenes 2-3, Pericles makes his way to the court of King Simonides and his daughter Thaisa. How do this King’s conduct and speech, along with that of his daughter, contrast with the manner of reception given Pericles by Antiochus and his daughter back in the first scene? In other words, what pronounced difference is there in the guest-host relations Pericles encounters in these two different kingdoms?

10. In Act 2, Scene 4, Helicanus reports that Antiochus and his daughter were struck by lightning while riding in their chariot, but the subjects of the absent Pericles’s realm have more pressing matters on their minds. With what concerns do they come to Helicanus, and how does Helicanus deal with these concerns — what is his plan going forwards?

11. In Act 2, Scene 5, King Simonides of Pentapolis shows tact and charm in dissembling his strong approval of the brewing match between Pericles, who has by now won the jousting tournament he entered along with several other knights, and the king’s daughter Thaisa. Why does the king so strongly approve? Moreover, why does he at first hide his delight in the match and treat Pericles rather harshly?


12. In Act 3, Prologue, John Gower fills us in on the latest developments: Pericles’s bride has had a child, the wicked King Antiochus and his daughter are reported dead, and back in Tyre, Helicanus is under pressure to accept the crown. The Prince sets sail for home, but runs into a powerful storm. In Act 3, Scene 1, how does Pericles handle the awful loss of Thaisa? How does he shape our future understanding of his newborn daughter: what does he say about her and what is his plan to keep her safe?

13. In Act 3, Scene 2, we learn that Pericles has made his way through the storm to Tarsus, while Thaisa’s carefully sealed coffin, tossed overboard by suspicious sailors, has washed ashore in Ephesus, where it comes to the attention of the physician Cerimon. What virtues does Cerimon show that link him to the hero Pericles? How does Cerimon achieve the almost miraculous revival of Thaisa: what means does he employ to this end, and what advice does he give Thaisa later in Scene 14?

14. By Act 3, Scene 3, Pericles has reached Tarsus and he now entrusts Cleon and his wife with the care of his infant daughter Marina. What are Pericles’s requests to Cleon, and what vow does Pericles himself make to the goddess Diana regarding Marina? What attitude does Pericles manifest towards the realm of the gods in this scene?


15. In Act 4, Prologue and Scene 1, we find out that Pericles has by now made it back to Tyre, and in Ephesus Thaisa has become a votary of the chaste goddess Diana. The young daughter Pericles named Marina and then left with Cleon at Tarsus is now a young woman, thanks to our passage through time with John Gower. How does Marina understand her current situation, and with what difficulty is she now presented: what’s the cause of Dionyza’s attempt upon her life?

16. In Act 4, Scene 2, as a result of the failed attempt on Marina’s life, the young woman ends up at the mercy of brothel-keepers in Mytilene on the island of Lesbos. In Act 4, Scenes 2 and 6, we are let in on the efforts of the Pander, his wife the Bawd and their man Boult’s efforts to acclimate Marina to the role of a prostitute. By what means does Marina get the upper hand not only on them but also on her would-be first customer, the Governor of Mytilene? How does the cumulative effect of these two scenes create a parallel between Pericles’ heroic qualities and Marina’s virtue?

17. In Act 4, Scene 3, Governor Cleon of Tarsus wrestles with the unwelcome knowledge of what his wife Dionyza has done to Marina — they both believe Marina is dead. How does Dionyza defend her wicked deed — what principles does she assert that we can take as the opposite of the romance quality of good characters such as Pericles, Thaisa, Helicanus, Cerimon and Marina? Why does Cleon go along with Dionyza’s cover-up?

18. In Act 4, Scene 4, we hear from John Gower that Pericles has made his way by sea to Tarsus to see what has become of his daughter Marina, whom he hasn’t seen since he left her as an infant in the care of Governor Cleon and his wife Dionyza. How does Pericles take the news that Marina has supposedly died — at what resolution does he arrive, and how might we relate or contrast that resolution to his earlier displays of good character and firm faith in the gods?


19. In Act 5, Prologue, John Gower tells us that Pericles’ ship has ended up at Mytilene’s harbor during a holiday dedicated to Neptune, god of the sea. Act 5, Scene 1 is taken up with the near-miraculous recovery by Pericles of his supposedly dead child, Marina, who guides him towards recognition of the truth and herself completes the realization of her own identity. How does Marina accomplish this impressive recovery or redemption?

20. In Act 5, Scene 3, Pericles obeys the dream vision of Diana he had towards the end of the previous scene, and makes his way to the goddess’ temple at Ephesus. How does Pericles and Marina’s wondrous recovery of Thaisa (and hers of them) unfold — what makes the necessary mutual recognitions possible? Why is Diana the appropriate goddess to guide the characters towards and preside over the happy romance ending: Pericles, Thaisa and Marina together again, with the addition of Lysimachus of Mytilene as Marina’s new husband?

21. General question: In alignment with a comic temporal sweep and favorable disposition of fortune and the gods, Shakespeare’s romance plays end happily, but they wouldn’t be “romances” if they didn’t involve considerable sorrow and loss, which is the stuff of tragedy. On the whole, how would you describe the balance in this first of Shakespeare’s romance plays between the sense of loss and the joyous exaltation stemming from recovery and reunion?

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen, Walter Cohen, Suzanne Gossett, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Gordon McMullan, eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems + Digital Edition. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93862-3.

Copyright © 2012, 2023 Alfred J. Drake (Changed to Act/Scene format)

The Tempest

Questions on Shakespeare’s Romance Plays

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Shakespeare, William. The Tempest. (Norton Romances and Poems, 3rd edition, pp. 387-448).


1. In Act 1, Scene 1, what kind of “tempest” does Prospero stir up? Explain the resonance of the storm metaphor for this play. For example, what does the storm at the outset of the play do to notions about rank, worth, and so forth, as the characters on board the sinking ship argue with one another?

2. In Act 1, Scene 2, how is Miranda positioned as a central character in the play, and what virtues does she appear to possess? How much does she know about her past, and what does she learn about her origins and status in this scene?

3. In Act 1, Scene 2, how does Prospero explain his loss of power and exile to Miranda? To what extent does he admit partial responsibility for his own downfall, and to what degree does he find others (his brother Antonio and the King of Naples) culpable?

4. In Act 1, Scene 2, what kind of magic does Prospero wield? What seems to be the source of that magic, and to what ends is he presently employing it? Aside from Prospero’s magic, what role does Fortune or Providence (God’s plan) play in the first two scenes?

5. In Act 1, Scene 2, how does Prospero treat Ariel and Caliban? What does his treatment of them suggest about his understanding of power and its proper uses? In what sense might it be said that Prospero’s potential for tyranny is on display in this scene?

6. In Act 1, Scene 2, Caliban has sometimes been allegorized by modern critics as an island native facing the onslaught of European colonizers. How do you interpret his situation? What are Caliban’s virtues and vices, and how does he describe himself — his nature, his origins, his rights, his limitations?

7. In Act 1, Scene 2, How does Ferdinand understand his situation after the shipwreck? How does Ariel’s song reinforce Ferdinand’s perceptions? Why does Prospero treat Ferdinand as he does, in spite of his inward delight at Miranda’s admiration for the young man?


8. Act 2, Scene 1, what utopian vision of governance and society does Gonzalo set forth? How do Sebastian and Antonio respond to this vision? Does Gonzalo seem wise? What are his strengths and limitations?

9. Act 2, Scene 1, what course of action does Antonio urge upon Sebastian, brother of Alonso, King of Naples? According to Antonio, what opportunity has the tempest presented to Sebastian, and how should he respond? How does Ariel thwart this evil exhortation?

10. Act 2, Scene 2, how does the comic scene with Trinculo and Stephano complement the previous one with Antonio and Sebastian? Why do Trinculo and Stephano form a natural unit with Caliban?


11. In Act 3, Scene 1, what task has Prospero given Ferdinand? What sort of interaction between Ferdinand and Miranda takes place — upon what is their affection based, and in what manner do they declare that affection? How does Prospero react to their conversation, which he overhears without their knowledge?

12. In Act 3, Scene 2, what action does Caliban urge upon Stephano? What appears to be Caliban’s view of “politics”? In other words, how should power be won, who deserves to win it, and how should it be maintained? What weakness in understanding does Caliban show in this scene?

13. In Act 3, Scene 3, what is the significance of Prospero’s magical stagecraft as he prepares to pronounce sentence against the shipwrecked men who have wronged him — why does Ariel offer up a banquet and then, appearing as a harpy, make the banquet disappear?

14. In Act 3, Scene 3, how does Prospero describe the sin of King Alonso of Naples? How does he punish Alonso for his role in banishing him? What effect does this punishment have upon the King?


15. In Act 4, Scene 1, what demonstration of his power does Prospero give Ferdinand and Miranda, and why does he offer them this demonstration? Who are Ceres and Iris, and what is the subject of their exchange?

16. In Act 4, Scene 1, Prospero utters his famous remark, “We are such stuff / As dreams are made on; and our little life / Is rounded with a sleep” (156-58)? What is the immediate context of this remark in the scene, and how, more generally, does it apply to Prospero’s own magical powers?


17. In Act 5, Scene 1, Prospero seems quite willing to part with his magic at long last. Why so? What has it helped him to accomplish that is perhaps even more important than exposing the faults of his enemies and getting them to promise to restore him to his dukedom?

18. In Act 5, Scene 1, when Prospero reveals Ferdinand and Miranda to the assembled company, they are playing chess. What is the significance of that choice on Shakespeare’s part, with respect to the couple’s island courtship and their prospects for a happy future?

19. In Act 5, Scene 1, what has Alonso learned from his ordeal as a temporarily bereaved father? How does he participate in the play’s successful resolution and setting-to-rights in this final scene?

20. In Act 5, Scene 1, what future lies in store for Prospero’s onetime minions Caliban and Ariel? What power or realm has Ariel symbolized throughout the play, and what life will he enjoy now that Prospero will soon have no further need of him?

21. In the epilogue, what prerogative does Prospero acknowledge as belonging to the audience? In what sense does Prospero here put himself in the situation of his own servant Ariel with respect to playgoers? How does the epilogue reflect on the relationship between art and life beyond art, between the representations of a creator and the imagination and attention of a viewer?

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen, Walter Cohen, Suzanne Gossett, Jean E. Howard, Katharine Eisaman Maus, and Gordon McMullan, eds. The Norton Shakespeare: Romances and Poems + Digital Edition. Third edition. New York: W. W. Norton, 2016. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93862-3.

Copyright © 2012 Alfred J. Drake

Twelfth Night

Questions on Shakespeare’s Comedies

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Shakespeare, William. Twelfth Night. (Norton Comedies, 2nd ed. 689-750).

1. Romantic-era critic William Hazlitt’s 1817 essay on Twelfth Night suggests that Shakespeare writes a “comedy of nature” in which “the foibles and follies of individuals are of nature’s planting, not the growth of art or study.” In Act 1, Scene 1, to what extent might Hazlitt’s statement be taken as a key to understanding Duke Orsino? To what excess or “foible” is he prone, and why, judging from what we learn of Countess Olivia in this scene, might she be an appropriate focus for Orsino’s affections?

2. In Act 1, Scene 2, what is the situation on the Illyrian coast? That is, what has happened to Viola and her brother? What plan does Viola announce to the Captain when he mentions Countess Olivia, and in what sense does the principle underlying this plan distinguish her as this comic play’s central character?

3. In Act 1, Scene 3, what is Sir Toby Belch’s attitude towards his niece Countess Olivia’s insistence on mourning for her departed brother? What seems to be his philosophy of life generally? What accounts for his interest in Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and by means of what advice does Toby urge Andrew to pursue his courtship of Olivia?

4. In Act 1, Scene 4, what is the basis of the intimacy that forms so quickly between Duke Orsino and Viola (disguised as “Cesario”; from now on I’ll write “Viola/Cesario” since the disguise won’t be lifted until Act 5)? Why does the Duke think his suit to Olivia will succeed better if he employs “Cesario” as his intermediary?

5. In Act 1, Scene 5, we meet Countess Olivia. Why does Olivia disdain Duke Orsino’s affection for her, if we might conjecture a reason besides the stated one of loyalty to her departed brother? Why does she grant a hearing to the Duke’s current attempt? How does this scene represent Olivia’s falling in love with Viola/Cesario, and how much control does she have over her situation once she falls in love?

6. In Act 1, Scene 5, how does Viola/Cesario manage the task of wooing by proxy for Duke Orsino, and how does she/he respond to Countess Olivia’s defensive witticisms and other comments meant to deflect Orsino’s persistent attentions? In sum, how does Viola/Cesario conceptualize courtships between men and women?

7. In Act 1, Scene 5, we also meet Olivia’s maid Maria, her steward Malvolio, and the Clown Feste. Discuss Olivia’s bantering with the latter — how does each assess Malvolio? What argument does Feste advance to prove Olivia a fool, and more broadly, when he says to Olivia, “Any thing that’s mended is but / patch’d; virtue that transgresses is but patch’d with / sin, and sin that amends is but patch’d with virtue” (47-49), how might we take his observation as a means by which to judge the errors and excesses of the play’s characters, Olivia included?


8. In Act 2, Scenes 1 and 2, first Antonio and Sebastian converse after the latter has been rescued from the shipwreck that he believes drowned his sister Viola. Characterize the affinity that seems to be struck up suddenly between Antonio and Sebastian. Moreover, in Scene 2, how does Viola/Cesario process the complication that has arisen since her proxy wooing of Olivia in the service of Duke Orsino?

9. In Act 2, Scenes 3 and 5, Sir Toby and Maria plot against Malvolio — what has he done to earn their scorn, and what exactly do they plan to do to him? What makes their plan appropriate to Malvolio’s character, and what’s the connection between this deception-plot and the larger action of the play (i.e. the love-pursuits of Viola, Olivia, and Orsino)?

10. In Act 2, Scene 4, Viola/Cesario is by now in as strong a state of passion for the Duke as the Duke is for Olivia. What advantages does Viola’s gender-disguise afford her in getting some perspective on the situation into which her own strong feelings have cast her? How much control does she have over her actions and her fate does she have at this point in the play (or elsewhere, if you want to refer to additional scenes)?

11. In Act 2, Scene 5, Malvolio falls head-first into the trap that Maria and Sir Toby have set for him. How does he interpret the alleged signs of Olivia’s affection, and in the process of doing that, how does he size up his own worth and his prospects going forward as well as reveal himself to be a hypocrite based upon the puritanism we have seen from him in earlier appearances?


12. In Act 3, Scene 1, how does Feste sum up for Viola/Cesario his role as a Fool? What is Viola/Cesario’s estimation of Feste’s qualities and speech?

13. In Act 3, Scene 1, characterize the impasse between Viola/Cesario and Olivia with regard to the latter’s passion for this servant of Duke Orsino. How might Olivia’s passion for Viola/Cesario be differentiated from that or Orsino for Olivia?

14. In Act 3, Scene 2, what advice does Sir Toby give Sir Andrew about his role as lover? What opinion of Sir Andrew does he hold by this point in the play, and why?

15. In Act 3, Scene 4, Malvolio is carted off to a “dark room” as a madman after his bizarre attempt to woo Olivia. By what words and gestures does he advance his suit, and how does Olivia take his ridiculous attempt at courtship? What does he think he has accomplished?

16. In Act 3, Scene 4, Sir Andrew is led to make his challenge against Viola/Cesario as a fellow suitor to Olivia. What limitations of her gender-based disguise does Viola run up against in this scene? As for Sir Toby, what evaluation does he offer regarding male rhetoric about honor and violence (see 3.4.176-96)?


17. In Act 4, Scenes 1 and 3, Sebastian is at first surprised to find Olivia enamored of him and then agrees to a very sudden proposal of marriage by Olivia since, of course, she mistakes him for Viola/Cesario. Why does he agree? What meditation does he offer regarding the affinity between love and madness, and how might his observations on this point be connected to the larger action of the play, which has been much concerned with this affinity and with the extent to which we can control or influence what happens to us?

18. In Act 4, Scene 2, Sir Toby and the Clown Feste have some more fun at the expense of the imprisoned Malvolio. What reservations is Sir Toby starting to have about the plot against Malvolio, and why? What observations does the “Fool” Feste (first as Sir Topas and then in his own person) make about insanity in the course of his chat with Malvolio? In particular, what seems to be the significance of Topas’s reference to Pythagoras and the doctrine of the reincarnation or the transmigration of souls?


19. In Act 5, Scene 1, how (by what device) does Shakespeare untie the comic “knots” tied in the first four acts — namely the confusion, frustration, and trouble caused by Viola’s gender disguising as well as the disillusionment and injury created by Sir Toby and Maria’s schemes against Malvolio and Sir Andrew? What insight/s about desire, courtship, and self-control might we gain from watching all this confusion and passion unfold and then be resolved before our eyes?

20. With regard to Act 5, Scene 1, some critics have taken Malvolio’s claims to victim-status rather seriously. It’s fair to say that Malvolio’s unhappy situation and parting threats inject a sour note into what is otherwise a symphony of happy marriages. But how might his punishment be interpreted as essentially just? How does Malvolio violate the comic spirit or impulse that otherwise reigns in this play–what quality does he lack that has helped the other characters get through their difficulties and arrive at happy endings?

21. The Clown Feste is perhaps one of Shakespeare’s most interesting “fools,” and he’s quite a musical fool, too, with songs gracing Acts 2.3, 2.4, 4.2, and at the very end of 5.1. What significance do these songs (address at least the final song and any one other) hold for the play’s broader concerns? How, that is, do they relate to such broader topics as love, sanity and insanity, the inevitability of change, death, and any other issues you find relevant? What meanings do the characters for whom Feste sings seem to derive from his songs?

Edition. Greenblatt, Stephen et al., eds. The Norton Shakespeare. 2nd edition. Four-Volume Genre Paperback Set. Norton, 2008. ISBN-13: 978-0-393-93152-5.

Copyright © 2012 Alfred J. Drake